Michael Marcantognini: Opportunities to Last a Lifetime
Spartan Soccer Senior Spotlight
By Angie Bazzano, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Leaving home to play soccer is not something that senior midfielder Michael Marcantognini is a stranger to, but that doesn't mean it's been easy to be 480 miles away - and in a different country.
At the age of 15, Marcantognini decided to attend boarding school, St. Andrews College, where he would have the opportunity to play elite level soccer while also receiving a high education. His time spent in Aurora would prepare him for the next steps in both his soccer and academic careers.
"From day one moving away from home at f15 to now being a senior, it's overwhelming the support that I have, and it's hard to make a lot of mistakes when you have that many people working for you."
For the second time in the Sudbury, Ontario, native's soccer career, he left home to pursue his soccer career, this time to become a Michigan State Spartan.
"The transition education-wise, it was pretty good that I already had the background at St. Andrews for high school, but it was definitely a transition," Marcantognini said. "Just the little things of being away from home and just adapting soccer-wise was a jump early on but it's been a great experience for my four years."
As there are transitions from high school soccer to college soccer anywhere, making the adjustment from high school soccer abroad to Big Ten college soccer proved to require its own adaptions for Marcantognini.
"On the soccer side, it would be the physicality of it. I'm not the biggest of guys, more like a technical player, but coming here right away there were a lot of big strong guys in the Big Ten and especially in this conference so that's something I had to adapt to quickly and work on my strength on the ball and off the ball."
Through being a member of the Toronto FC Junior Academy and the Team Ontario Provincial Team, Marcantognini had several opportunities to play soccer internationally, in places like Amsterdam, Brazil and Spain. Traveling to these places helped his development as a soccer player and person.
"Just the culture over there where I go is learning, learning different things not only about soccer but you learn about yourself and develop into a man when you're traveling and being away from your family and that comfort zone," Marcantognini said. "It's been a great experience."
Former Spartan All-American and current player for Toronto FC, Jay Chapman, had a strong influence on Marcantognini's decision to pursue collegiate soccer at Michigan State.
"Jay Chapman, he was another Canadian who was on the team, he just explained to me how good the level was while he was here and the opportunities to go and play beyond his college soccer; there are a lot of opportunities to do that," Marcantognini stated. "Doing that and coming on my visit, hanging out with him and seeing the environment and the players that were currently here really helped in my decision to come to Michigan State."
The opportunities Marcantognini has been presented with throughout his soccer career thus far, has given him the tools he has needed to succeed on the field and in the classroom. It is those opportunities that have taken him outside of his comfort zone, where he has excelled.
"Coming here, it's definitely been an experience. A lot of, not ups and downs, but there's been, like in anything, good moments and tough moments to push through," Marcantognini said. "It's just a really big learning experience, a great level of soccer to play at and then just the opportunity to go from where I was as a high school age player to now as a college age player and then the opportunity to go play soccer at the next level after my time here is finished is all that I can ask for. For that I'm very thankful."
During his freshman season, Marcantognini looked up to the senior class to guide him and his freshman class during a successful season. It was in the Elite Eight run in the NCAA tournament that year that he looks at as one of the more memorable moments from his career in East Lansing.
"Our freshmen class who are now seniors, played a really big role in that a lot of us played a lot of minutes," Marcantognini said. "Making it that far right away and playing with the players like Jay (Chapman), Fatai (Alashe) and Adam (Montague), all of those seniors who we looked up to and making that run all the way to the Elite Eight was probably the best experience that I can remember."
Although the wins on the field have been great moments to be a part of, as Marcantognini prepares to complete his time as a Spartan soccer player, it is the preparation during the offseason months that he will cherish the most.
"I will always remember the spring season where as a team we put in the work. That may be 6 a.m. runs in Jenison track and go up and lift right after that," Marcantognini recalls. "Things like that have built character, built work ethic, built the team comradery. Things like that have been amazing. I'll never forget those moments because of how hard we've worked as a team to be successful."
Being a part of a Michigan State men's soccer program that has seen so many successes on and off the field has influenced who Marcantognini is today. It is through the team's commitment to academics, performance on the field and community interactions that have shaped his Spartan experience.
"It's a little bit of a competition; we push ourselves on the field but also off of it. Almost everyone on the team has really good grades and works really hard at school. We do things in the community which the opportunities to do that is amazing," Marcantognini said. "The total package of developing and doing that has been amazing to be a part of. It's kind of similar to my high school where they preach not only soccer, not only athletics, but the academics as well."
As Marcantognini graduates this coming May, he looks at the end of his Spartan soccer career as not just an ending, but the start of another part of his soccer journey and another opportunity to further his career.
Marcantognini has hopes of extending his soccer career after his time in the Green and White comes to an end, with an MLS organization either with an MLS or USL team. Although he is open to going anywhere, the possibility of returning home and playing for Toronto FC would be a dream come true as he has spent the past few summers there.
"I also just finished up my applications to law school so that's something that, whenever soccer does come to an end, hopefully not sooner than later, then I can go into that but definitely soccer is still a big passion of mine," The senior added.
While there may be a time where his soccer career will come to an end, Marcantognini has plans of going to law school, but for the time being, he will continue to strive to be the best version of himself, as a soccer player and person, with every opportunity with which he is presented.
"Be hard working and make sure that no matter what opportunities you're given while you're here at Michigan State, whether it's playing time, whether it's things academically or what your role may be, make the most of it," Marcantognini stated. "I would say you never know who's watching, and you can always take that next step in being a better version of yourself."