The defending open and women’s division champions from last year are back, and so is another impressive field of competitors ready to ‘spock’ the title holders from contention as the 39th World Series of Bocce Tournament will be set to roll on Friday night at the Toccolana Club.
The World Series has been a summer highlight in Rome since the early 1970s. It is attended by teams from across the country and is one of the longest running bocce tournaments in North America.
A total of 121 teams will be apart of this year’s field, with 77 teams competing in the open division, and 44 teams making up the women’s division.
The tourney begins with action on Friday night at 5 o’clock for the women’s division while the open division gets underway at 6 o’clock. Before the competitions commence, local dignitaries will be on hand during the opening ceremonies, including Rome Mayor Joseph R. Fusco Jr. There will also be appreciation plaques given out to various local supporters for their contributions to put on the event.
Tournament action will resume throughout the day on Saturday and will continue on into Sunday, when the finals will be held in both divisions. World Series organizers said that the starting times of the finals will be determined by the pace of Sunday’s matches leading up to the finals. Tentatively they are scheduled for 2 o’clock for the women’s division and 4 o’clock for the open division.
There will be plenty of food vendors and family entertainment, including the The Red Band "La Banda Rossa" of Utica performing on Saturday night, playing from 7 until 9 p.m. on the grounds.
"We’ve made a few improvements from last year. We have entertainment both nights, and we have just as many teams as we had last year, so this event seems to be improving every year," said Toccolana Club president Angelo Cianfrocco. "I just want to express my gratitude for all of those people who have helped make this event possible. If it wasn’t for all of the support that we have gotten, we couldn’t have done this.
"We have a lot of support from all over to make sure that this event is going to be a success. We’re hoping that the people of Rome come down and support the competitors and the community this weekend," he added.
This year in the open division, it is estimated that the winners will receive $4,000, with the second-place squad receiving $2,000 and the third-place squad awarded $1,000.
In the women’s division, first place will receive $2,000, while second place gets $900 and third brings in $600.
The top 16 finishers in each division earn money prizes.
The Liquor Express squad, which was formed in 1989 by team leader Donna Ciotti and her three daughters while they were in the 20s, are the favorites yet again in the women’s division.
They are Guinness Book of World Records holders for the category of "Most wins of the World Series of Bocce (female team)" with their 10 World Series of Bocce women’s division titles. The team is led by their captain Ciotti and her three daughters Kim Luczak, Tammy DiMezzo, and Robin Lanzi.
Liquor Express won its first title in 1990, before dominating to win five consecutive titles from 1997-2001, another title win again in 2005 and then followed that up by winning three consecutive crowns from 2008-10.
There might be changing of the guard, however, as the Liquor Express gang was knocked from their podium after losing in the championship game to Ciotti’s youngest daughter, Kristin Page, and her ConMed squad during last year’s tourney after a stunning 16-15 ending.
ConMed had played runner-up to Liquor Express in each of the past two years before finally proving that the third time would be the charm last year to give Page, Irene Panara, Dianna Cianfrocco, and Judy Cianfrocco — the mother of former Major League Baseball player Archi Cianfrocco and the wife of the Toccolana Club president — the crown.
If they want a shot at their 11th title, it is likely that the Liquor Express squad will have to go through the defending champs again in this year’s tourney.
The Liquor Express quartet has seen a string of success for over two decades and for that they were honored as the first recipients of the Ellie Bruce Exceptional Team of Excellence Award in 2010 by the Rome Sports Hall of Fame. Liquor Express opens up with Insight House on Friday at 5 o’clock, while ConMed faces Bonomo Insurance Agency also at 5.
In the open division, Phil’s Hairstyling from Connecticut, which last won the World Series of Bocce championship in 2009, defeated Toronto 777 twice in the championship round to claim last year’s title. The group, which featured team members included Vincent Gagliardi, Angelo Rossetti, Ugo Mastrioanni, and Phil Muscarella, also won titles in 2007 and 2009. They won with 16-14 scores over Toronto 777 to take the double-elimination championship.
Phil’s Hairstyling begins their title defense against Delvecchio’s of Rome at 8 o’clock on Friday, while Toronto 777 faces off against Lucky Larry’s at 8.
Other top teams in the open division last year included, the 2010 World Series of Bocce open division champion, Vandra Brothers, coming in fourth place, while Toccolana No. 2 was fifth, Budweiser was sixth, New York Sash was seventh, East Haven No. 2 was eighth, Farinacci Designs was ninth, and Leominster Hawks were tenth overall.
Vandra Brothers has Adirondack Bank starting at 6, while Toccolana No. 2 has DJ Buzzin’ at 6, and Budweiser takes on Kirch’s Hardware at 7.
In the women’s division, Bucky’s Restaurant finished third last year, while S&D Pro Shop was fourth, Four Friends were fifth, Team Mary Rose was sixth, Sal Fragapagne Firestone was seventh, Bouton Physical Therapy took eighth place, Olney’s Flowers finished in ninth, and SMS Seneca Falls was tenth.
During last week’s annual Al Orbinati Memorial World Series Warm-Up Tournament held at the Toccolana Club, 15 four-man teams were entered in the double-elimination event, with awards going to the top four spots.
First place went to Felice Moving after they went undefeated in the tourney. Team members included Rich Zakala, Paul Louis Jr., Santino Emmanuele and Paul Calicchia.