Courtesy of www.mascac.com
You can hear it in his voice.
Once you get past the Italian-Long Island inflection that accentuates every word, Tony Crescitelli speaks of his time as a student-athlete at North Adams State College (MCLA) like it all happened yesterday.
Born in Altavilla Irpina, Italy, Crescitelli and his family made the move to the United States when he was 12. Not knowing a word of English before he arrived on Long Island, New York, Crescitelli often was in trouble with his teachers for using improper words throughout the school day.
One thing that did translate well from Italy to N.Y. was his love of soccer. Growing up, the game created a bond between him, his dad and brother.
Fast forward to high school and Crescitelli was enjoying being a dual sport athlete in basketball and soccer with thoughts of what might come next.
"The basketball coach who was also the soccer coach (Tom Baker) came to recruit on Long Island and I was looking to go away for college," Crescitelli said. "He asked if I played soccer too and I said I wasn't interested. At the last minute I changed my mind, packed my suitcase and headed to North Adams on a bus."
Upon his arrival at North Adams State, it wasn't long before Crescitelli made an impression on Baker and the Mohawks (now Trailblazers) soccer program. His freshman season the team went 13-1 while he scored 31 goals. An injury-laden sophomore season didn't stop him from coming back as a senior to net 35 goals and a senior campaign with 46.
Over his four years, the team would go 60-6, claim MASCAC titles in 1976, 77 and 78 along with a spot in the NCAA Tournament those years and a Final Four appearance in 1978, Crescitelli found himself etching his name in the NCAA record books.
Currently, he is first in Division III career points with 258 over 62 games, which is second best in the NCAA. His 123 career goals from 1975-78 are also tops in Division III and second over all three divisions while his 1.98 goals per game sits in first in Division III. He was a four-time MASCAC All-Star selection and team MVP in 1976 and 1978.
While he knows the significance of his records, Crescitelli knows he can't take full credit for his success.
"It was an honor, but I have to give a shout out to my teammates," Crescitelli said. "Without them, I could not have accomplished what I did. Being from New York and not knowing anyone, my teammates became my family. It translated onto the field. All the goal scorers get the accolades, but I had good guys to set me up for those goals."
Garnering attention his final season of college, Crescitelli received offers to play professional in the US. He would participate in the Olympic Sport Festival in 1978 and be drafted by the Washington Diplomats, including a stint on the US National Team in 1983. His professional career spanned seven years and was an experience he will never forget.
"It was a dream come true to play soccer professionally," Crescitelli said. "I had the chance to play with some of the best players in the world. I grew up idolizing these teams and players. It's like a kid from North Adams being drafted by the Bulls and getting a chance to play with Michael Jordan. It was amazing."
After the North American Soccer League folded, Crescitelli went back to school this time as a physical education teacher in N.Y. for 22 years while also coaching high school soccer. Recently retired, he is enjoying the time off and occasional fishing trips.
Crescitelli was inducted into the first MCLA Hall of Fame in 1998 along with eight distinguished honorees, which he considers a "true honor". He can now say he is a dual Hall of Fame inductee as the MASCAC selected his for the 2020 class.
Even though many student-athletes dream of the success of going professional, Crescitelli shares the importance of education and a solid college experience first then look to the future.
"Stay in school and get a degree," Crescitelli said. "I had no idea what I was going to do. I thought I would play professionally my entire life. Being a professional is great, but it is a lot of work. Get your degree and graduate then you can work on that part of your dream."
While some things may have been lost in translation for Crescitelli when he made the move across the Atlantic, his love and appreciation for soccer remained intact and helped him leave his mark on MCLA the MASCAC and the NCAA.