10A - Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.cam
Van Bergen uses mother's
motivation to keep focused
Senior goalkeeper Chris Blais is expected to be a huge part of the defense this
year, as many of his teammates have said he's taken on a leadership role.
This could be the
year the picsfit
ut all the correct pieces
together and the puzzle
will be complete, right?
In the world of sports, the
answer is not always yes.
of the PAGNI
Michigan On Men's Soccer
- and the remainder waiting to
get their feet wet in a game - are
a mix of new talent and experi-
enced leaders. The 2010 squad
features dangerous offensive
weapons to complement a veter-
an backfield and an experienced
This year's group has the
potential to be one of the most
successful teams that Michigan
head coach Steve Burns has
coached in his 11 years at the
Even with what seems like the
right pieces on the field, poten-
tial hasn't always translated into
victories for the Wolverines.
Completing the puzzle means
fighting for a trip to the playoffs
for the first time since 2008, and
this year's Wolverines clearly
has their work cut out for them.
The current roster features
a special mix of energetic, very
skillful youth, with win-hungry
veterans who understand just
what's at stake every time they
take the field.
One of the veterans - junior
keeper Chris Blais - anchors
Michigan's defense in his second
season as the Wolverine starter.
Blais is as locked-in to the game
as they come -- and even trained
with the MLS Seattle Sound-
ers this summer to ensure he
continued to get better in the
Last season, Blais ranked sec-
ond in the Big Ten with a save
percentage of .761 and a goals
against average of 1.16. This year,
the goalkeeper is a team captain
and has become an obvious vocal
leader from the box.
In addition to the Blais, the
See SOCCER, Page 12
By TIM ROHAN
Daily Sports Editor
When Ryan Van Bergen played
football at Whitehall High School,
most of the stories written about
him were very positive. But, when
one particular story discussed how
the current Michigan defensive
lineman was undeserving of an
award, that's the clipping that made
the refrigerator at home.
Van Bergen's mom, Toni, started
defending her son at an early age.
She would bring his birth certificate
to his football games. He started
playing when he was eight or nine
years old, but he was always bigger
than the other kids. Other mothers
As he's grown up, Toni's tough
love has been a constant motiva-
tion for Van Bergen. Toni will see a
small line in an article that's nega-
tive about Van Bergen's play, she'll
highlight it and e-mail it to him. The
message is understood by now: keep
your head on right, and prove the
"She tries to do her best to moti-
vate me," Van Bergen said. "I'm her
baby, so she's gotta do something.
She's like, 'You gotta do something,
this is what they said about you.' I
love her to death, but she's a good
motivator. She sends me stuff all the
Van Bergen reads every single
one. He knows that when he calls
home it will come up in conversa-
tion - often about once every other
After last Saturday's 30-10 win
over Connecticut, the entire Michi-
gan football team could learn some-
thing from the lessons that Toni
had taught her son over the years.
"The whole coaching staff is
emphasizing to stay healthy," Van
Bergen said. "Last year, we started
out 4-0, everybody was very excited
about our season, then things start-
ed to head south. So staying hungry
and staying motivated is something
our team is going to preach all year
- just to continue to try and prove
Michigan coach Rich Rodri-
guez isn't getting too high after the
season-opening win. At Monday's
press conference, he noted several
areas where he felt the team could
have done better in the 20-point
win. Even with the outside world
spinning throughout a summer of
NCAA allegations and then a week
one win, internally the Wolverines
are calm and steady - so Rodriguez
"You're just one bad day away'
from everybody else saying what
they were saying about you last
week," Rodriguez said. "It's like
poison - it's okay as long as you
don't swallow it. They won't be
swallowing it, because they know
it's still out there."
As for Van Bergen's effort in the
win, Toni might not have a lot of
ammunition tomotivate her son. He
finished with four tackles. He made
the less-than-glamorous plays that
won't show up on the stat sheet, but
are vital for any team.
The redshirt junior is now in his
second year as a starter on defense,
but Van Bergen switched posi-
tions in the offseason. Last year,
he played as the three-technique
defensive tackle and now he's play-
ing defensive end - filling Brandon
Graham's void after he graduated
and was drafted bythe Philadelphia
Before Graham left, Van Bergen
looked to him in differentsituations
to learn what to do and how to grow
from his experience. But now, Van
Bergen is one of the defense's men-
tors and he's the one handing out
"I think it's somethingthat hope-
fully, Me, Mike (Martin) and Craig
(Roh) can use to rub off on some of
the guys who haven'thad that expe-
rience, and be able to bring them
through it," Van Bergen said of his
experience. "Because you don't
want anybody out there who isn't
getting help who needs it."
Already, after just one week, Van
Bergen and Martin have already
stamped their play on defense.
With the Huskies' running game
pushing to the outside, the duo had
to routinely get off blocks and make
tackles down the field.With athree-
man front on defense, Van Bergen
said that the Huskies shifted their
protection to his and Martin's side
Redshirt junior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen switched to defensive end this offseason to replace Brandon Graham.
- freeing up Roh for one-on-one
opportunities to beat a blocker and
make plays in the backfield.
"We kinda gave him a gift in that
way," Van Bergen said. "But he did
really well with it. And if he's going
to keep doing things like he's doing,
we'll take the bullets."
Roh finished with five tackles,
two of which were for a loss. Martin
had two tackles and shared a tackle
for a loss.
The Wolverines' ability to tackle
and get pressure on the quarterback
- even without Graham - could be
a lifesaver for the defense: protect
a young secondary and have your
experienced players carry the load.
Van Bergen's not worried about
letting up this year.
He said the gas pedal was still
hitting the floor, even when Michi-
gan was up big on Saturday. Toni
would probably like itthatway.
And despite her motivational
tactics thus far, she doesn't send the
clips to her son's teammates - at
least not just yet.
"If they wanted it, my mom
would probably get their e-mails
and forward it," Van Bergen said.
"Gotta love a mom."
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