Trailblazer Begins Soccer Career
By Karen Howard
Tyler Vona '16 of Highland, N.Y., plans to become a dentist one day, but for now he can be found drilling on the soccer field as the newest member of the Hudson Valley's semi-professional Kingston Stockade Football Club.
A starting player for MCLA's men's soccer team all four years of his college career, Vona's future in soccer was uncertain earlier this year as he neared graduation. However, a friend who scouted players for the Kingston Stockade Football Club urged him to try out, and he went on to secure a spot on the team after beating out more than 120 players in multiple try-out sessions.
"After finding out I made the roster and witnessing the teams' determination, the crowds coming to support, and children rushing the sidelines for autographs, I knew soccer wasn't over for me," Vona said. "I am extremely proud and excited to not only continue playing the game I love, but to represent my hometown and the Hudson Valley in doing so."
Most of the players who belong to the Kingston Stockade Football Club are from the Hudson Valley. In fact, Vona grew up playing with – or against – many of them. Although their season began before he graduated, they held his spot on the team until he graduated last month.
While he still plans to take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) next month, and to apply to dental schools soon after, Vona acknowledges that this new opportunity certainly provides a platform to upper-level soccer.
"If I am ever presented with the option to play professionally, I would more than likely do so. But for the time being I am just focused on playing to the best of my abilities every time I am on the field," he said.
At MCLA, Vona played in the center midfield position. In 2014 he was named captain shortly after the season began, and helped lead the Trailblazers to their first MASCAC playoff appearance since 2008. Named captain once again in 2015, he and the team again returned to the playoffs.
After experiencing a concussion a year ago, Vona realized that knowledge regarding that type of injury was somewhat opaque. As a result, when serving an internship in the Office of Student Affairs, he decided to learn more about concussions – specifically geared toward youth soccer – so he might share that information with others.
"Not many people understand the lasting effects that can result from a concussion at an early age," Vona said. "A concussion requires a lot of energy to recover, taking away from the natural development processes occurring in a child's brain. If an injury occurs, depending on its severity, it may hinder a child from fully developing their adult intellect or emotion."
Throughout his time at MCLA, Vona benefitted from attending multiple leadership and research conferences. "Being able to interact with the community outside of MCLA also helped to improve my social skills, and provided me with the opportunity to act as a mentor to local youth."
An alumnus of the biology program, Vona recommends it – and MCLA – to others.
"With small class sizes and enthusiastic professors, it's easy to establish personal connections. There are numerous opportunities for internships, research projects, jobs, and more offered to those involved in the biology department," he said. "MCLA presented me with many opportunities to succeed academically and socially. The curriculum pushed me to work harder inside and outside of the classroom to achieve my goals."