Athletics Alumni Spotlight

Tom DeStefano, Men's Soccer


Former MCCC men’s soccer goalie Tom DeStefano is a familiar face on the athletic fields at Mercer.  DeStefano was a member of the last MCCC men’s soccer (and any MCCC sports team) team to win an NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) National Championship, when the Vikings won the national title in 2004.

DeStefano came to Mercer from Steinert High School, where he earned many soccer accolades.  DeStefano was a three year starter as goalie at Steinert, where he earned all-conference and all-county honors.  DeStefano was named an All-American his senior year at Steinert and set the school record for shutouts. 

In his sophomore season as goalie at Mercer, DeStefano led the nation in shutouts and was second in the nation in save percentage.  DeStefano allowed just 7 goals in 1,566 minutes with 14 shutouts and earned All-Region honors.

After two years at MCCC, DeStefano transferred to NC State, where he split time at goalie.  DeStefano led the team in saves and in his junior year and had a shutout draw vs. #1 Clemson.  As a senior, DeStefano had a shutout draw vs #1 UCLA before an injury cut short his career. 

DeStefano graduated from NC State with a B.S. in Sports Management.  DeStefano is currently Marketing Director for Sterling Title Agency in Hamiton, NJ. 

DeStefano has served as an Assistant Coach for three different sports at Mercer since 2008: men’s basketball, women’s soccer and softball.  DeStefano was Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach with the last MCCC basketball team to reach the NJCAA National Tournament in 2010 and helped the Vikings softball team reach the NJCAA World Series in 2018.

DeStefano reflected on his time at MCCC as an athlete as well as a multi-sport coach at Mercer.  “Mercer has been very influential in where I am today. Looking back to the things I learned from Athletic Director John Simone, Athletic Trainer Lisa Camillone and my coaches Charlie Inverso, Larry Povia and Pat Snyder to name a few that have taught me so much. And now seeing how Head Softball Coach Ryan Zegarski goes about being a coach and how he handles players has helped me grow not only as a coach but as a person.”

DeStefano discussed how influential former MCCC Men’s Soccer Coach Charlie Inverso was.  Inverso coached the Vikings for 24 seasons, winning 5 national championships and finishing with the highest winning percentage in NJCAA men’s soccer history. “Coach was awesome. He cared about every single one of his players and not just on the field. He went above and beyond for plenty of guys off the field. I think personally as a coach now that is where I get that from. I would do anything for the players I coach and they all know that. On the field Coach wasn't a screamer or a get in your face kind of coach. He was someone who taught the game the right way and we respected that. He’s also very funny!”

The influence of Coach Inverso helped DeStefano transition to NCAA Division I Soccer at NC State.  “The transition for me wasn't very difficult. Charlie really prepared us for that next level. He knew what the next step for most of us was going to be and he put us in situations to make sure we were ready for it. The transition was also easy because the guys I went up against in practice were some of the most talented players I've ever shared a field with. You'll either prove yourself or you won't!”

The experiences DeStefano had playing at Mercer as well as an internship he did at MCCC during his last semester at NC State helped DeStefano become interested in coaching. “Literally the last credits I needed at NC State was for an internship and Mr. Simone was generous enough to offer me one in the Athletic Department. While doing that I realized I wanted to coach. I wanted to have the opportunity to shape these student athletes lives as mine once was.”

In addition to all he learned from his time at Mercer, DeStefano still considers winning the National Championship one of his favorite moments. “One of the best moments of my life all together is when we won a national championship in 2004. The team that we had could have competed with any team in the country not just at the junior college level, but at the NCAA Division 1 level. We were such a tight group too and I'm proud to say that we still keep in touch to this day.”


DeStefano has had the opportunity to travel to Nationals as both a player and a coach with men’s basketball and softball.  DeStefano discussed the experiences as a coach and player.  “Selfishly, that feeling of being successful on the field is what drives me, the same way it did when I was a player. So when I went to Nationals as a player and as a coach, it's the same feeling. I still get butterflies. The only difference is I can't step up and make the plays anymore as a coach.” 

Winning a National Championship was DeStefano’s favorite memory as a player at Mercer and travelling to Nationals as a coach with two different teams has offered him two of his favorite memories as a coach at MCCC. “There are two moments that really stick out from coaching.  The first was when I was coaching with Coach Levy and men's basketball and we went to the National Tournament: the group we had and how we got everyone to come together was just amazing to be a part of. The second moment is when we went to the Softball World Series in 2018. That team was special, the way those girls bought it to what we were asking them and how they stepped up to every situation was incredible.”

When asked about differences coaching three different sports, DeStefano noted that there weren’t that many differences.  “To me this is an easy one, the difference is truly only the sport. When you coach, you teach and that's what I tried to do in every situation I was in. The end goal at this level is having these kids come Mercer do well in the classroom first and foremost and then on the field. So whether it was basketball, soccer or softball I'm teaching them the game and making sure they understand that the classroom is just as important as the field or court.”

DeStefano also felt there was little difference coaching men’s and women’s sports. “They both have their challenges and that's not saying one is easier to coach than the other. All in all you are coaching athletes and at this level they need to be coached the right way whether they are male or female. I think looking back for me I've coached the same as I would regardless of gender.” 

In addition to serving as an Assistant Softball Coach for MCCC and working full time at Sterling Title Agency, DeStefano also referees youth basketball and has two young children, Chase and Isla.  When asked how he manages all this and coaching, DeStefano said balancing all of this “is hard for sure! My family and friends are the most important thing in the world to me and then sports. Before I had my own family it was all sports all the time. It takes a special person at home to be able to help me juggle all that I do and I have that with my wife Kelly. It's not easy when you have a family, a couple businesses, coaching and officiating. Kelly respects the fact that coaching is truly important to me. It's not always easy that's for sure but we make it work.”

The importance of family and friends to DeStefano was something he learned at Mercer when his team won the National Championship. “I take so much pride in being a part of that championship team. We came together as brothers and cared and respected one another. I could go on and on about that team and I'm thankful that I was a part of that. You have no idea how much I preach to my team now how important it is to come together as a family. It's because of this championship team. I saw it firsthand and I live it!”

The many lessons DeStefano has learned from Mercer are something he has passed down and continues to pass down to MCCC student athletes.




DeStefano and the 2004 National Champion MCCC Men's Soccer Team


DeStefano (standing on right) with the 2010 MCCC men's basketball team who made it the NJCAA National Tournament



DeStefano (far right) as an Assistant Women's Soccer Coach in 2012



DeStefano (back right) with the 2018 MCCC Softball Team who made it to the NJCAA World Series