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Club hockey’s Vuoncino exudes leadership on and off ice

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Matthew Vuoncino, captain and four-year player for the Marquette club hockey team, is described by head coach Will Jurgensen as someone who will “never back down from a challenge.” The star senior’s leadership through example on the ice and his strong voice in the locker room are among the many reasons the Golden Eagles are off to a successful start this season.

These qualities are also what Vuoncino will look to exemplify after Marquette in his career as an Air Force Active Duty physician.

Vuoncino grew up in Elmwood Park, a north New Jersey suburb of New York City, in a family with a military background. His grandfather served in the Army during World War II and his father works as an aerospace engineer on numerous military projects. Vuoncino pointed to his family history and an impulse to serve others as reasons to enter the service.

“I think through medicine and the military, I’ll really have a chance to give back,” Vuoncino said.

His hockey interest began at age four when he first began to skate. By the age of five, Vuoncino began playing competitively and fell in love with the sport. He saw his interest in hockey as something that made him unique.

“I was the only kid in my grade school who played hockey, so it was kind of my thing,” Vuoncino said. “It made me unique and different from all the other kids and I liked that.”

The drive to play led him to AAA-level club teams and eventually junior hockey. He knew that playing in college was the next step. He began looking at schools where he could play four years, attend a strong medical school and join an ROTC program to combine his interests.

The Jesuit connection with his high school in Manhattan, Regis High School, guided him to take a trip to Milwaukee, even though Marquette was not at top the of his list. However, his opinion began to change after walking around the city, meeting the students and learning about the biomedical sciences program, which he said was a tipping point. Following his visit, Marquette became the school he wanted to attend.

Hockey was the next step in Vuoncino’s college immersion. His hard work and on-ice success through his first three seasons paved the way to being voted a captain for his senior season. Along with fellow seniors and assistant captains Tyler Schwichtenberg, Dave Fabris and junior Brendan Natwora, he works to instill a winning attitude throughout the program.

Jurgensen’s most vivid memory of Vuoncino’s prowess as a leader comes from the first home-stand of the 2014 season against Bradley University. After two periods in the first game of the series, the Golden Eagles were down and struggling to get anything going offensively.

“It was only our second weekend of the season, but Matt challenged himself and his teammates to decide what type of character they had in order to come from behind 2-1 entering the third,” Jurgensen said. “Not only that, but he came out and led by example and was a big part of our eventual shootout victory.  He is vocal, but also works incredibly hard and backs up what he says to the guys by always giving 100 percent.”

At the conclusion of his Marquette career, Vuoncino will attend medical school. While earning his medical degree, he will be working for the Air Force Medical Corps as a military doctor and after earning his degree, he will become a full-fledged Air Force Active Duty physician.

While Vuoncino doesn’t know how long his military career will be, the future looks bright for the player looking to serve his county.

“I can see myself being in the Air Force for my entire career, but at this stage, without having actually been on active duty, who knows?” Vuoncino said. “I am just excited to take my next step, and start my career as a leader and an officer.”

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