Monday, July 19, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Blais enjoys challenge as'M'netminder
By CASANDRA PAGNI
Daily Sports Writer
Growing up 2,300 miles away in
Seattle, Washington, redshirt junior
Chris Blais never dreamed he would
be the starting goalkeeper at Michi-
And since Blais's parents and
grandparents were Notre Dame grad-
uates and avid fans of the Fighting
Irish, the fact that Blais now proudly
dons a Michigan jersey is even more
But Michigan and Blais were a per-
fect match - so much so that Blais
now laughs when he recalls his days of
rooting for the Fighting Irish.
"Obviously growing up, I was a
little bit of a 'Golden Domer', as they
say," Blais said. "But once I got into
recruiting, I took my visit to Michigan
and (saw a) game at the Big House. I'm
pretty much a sports junkie, so see-
ing all the big time sports Michigan
has was a big thing for me. That was
the combination for me - a big school
with sports that obviously has very
The goalkeeper is heading into
his second season as the Wolverines'
starter, and the expectations for Blais
are higher than ever.
A full time goalie since he was 10
years old, Blais has come to enjoy the
high-stakes environment that a colle-
giate-level keeper competes in.
"I don't feel pressure but I always
feel anxiety to play the game," Blais
said. "Four or five hours before we
play, I'm already anxious for the game
... Once the game starts, once the
whistle is blown, that's when every-
thing changes for me and I'm just
ready to go."
A FORCE IN THE NET
While Blais's position is a respon-
sibility that senior defender Chase
Tennant called "tough from the start,"
Blais thrives on the intensity of the
position he plays.
"As a kid I played basketball, base-
ball and soccer, and in some ways
(being) goalie involved all three of
them," Blais said. "Being the only
player who is able to use their hands
and catching skills, it brought me to
really like the position."
The keeper decided to redshirt his
freshman season in 2007, as former
Wolverine Patrick Sperry was the
starting goalie that year. Blais had to
wait two seasons before the starting
job became his, but now understands
how valuable his seasons on the bench
"In my life, I never had to be the
second guy (before my redshirt sea-
son)," Blais said. "Whether it was club
soccer or high school, I was always
the one playing. I learned a lot about
myself especially that no matter who
you were before you came to college,
you can always work harder."
Following his redshirt season, Blais
played three games for the Wolverines
in 2008 with one start, which he won.
With two years of little to no game-
time action, Blais tried to soak up as
much of the veteran team's knowledge
as he could, knowing that his turn to
start for Michigan was just around the
"When I wasn't the full time start-
er, I didn't have that anxiety (for the
game) as much," Blais said. "You know
as a backup goalie you might have a
chance to get in the game, and you try
and warm up in practice every day like
you're maybe going to play, but with a
long season that is kind of hard.
"But when I knew I was the starter,
I took every rep in practice so seri-
ously and the preparation for the game
was so serious. That was the biggest
Redshirt juniorgoaltender Chris Blais waited two seasons before he started for Michigan.
difference in becoming the main guy." ESPN The Magazine Academic All-
District First Team and Academic All-
HARD WORK PAYS OFF Big Ten teams in 2009, and was named
Blais will always remember his first Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week
start last season, as it was against his two times.
family's alma mater - Notre Dame. "Being in the goalie position is very
Michigan lost the game 5-0, but it tough because you're the last man, in
marked - somewhat ironically - the a sense," Tennant said. "(Blais) is put
beginning of Blais's career as the Wol- in a lot of pressure situations, and he
verines' keeper. handles it well. He is a big-time play-
"It was a weird feeling because I er."
had a lot of family there and to lose Blais showcased his big-game abili-
5-0 your first game is never fun," Blais ties by making six saves in Michigan's
said. "But that was definitely a cool double-overtime loss to Penn State in
moment for me because it was Michi- the Big Ten Tournament last season,
gan (versus) Notre Dame and my fain- tying his career high for saves in a
ily are all Notre Dame (fans)." game.
After making a career-high six saves With last season in the record
in the Notre Dame loss, Blais went on books, Blais has done everything in
to start the remaining 17 games of the his power to make sure his game is at
season for the Wolverines. He finished a new level this fall - beginningtrain-
last season with a record of 10-7-1 and ing with the Seattle Sounders, the
67 saves. Major League Soccer team from his
Blais was named to the CoSIDA/ hometown for the second summer in
"(Blais) has a year under his belt
which gives him all the confidence
in the world," senior forward Jus-
tin Meram said. "He had a good year
already and it was like his rookie year
in a sense ... I think he's going to come
in with the right mindset after train-
ing in Seattle."
THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT
With Michigan's season set to kick-
off August 21 against West Virginia,
Blais is making sure the rest of the
team remains focused on their sum-
Meram calls Blais a jokester until
game time, but then "(Blais) is all busi-
"He sets up meetings during the
offseason to get everybody together
and to see where everybody's at,"
Meram said. "He wants to win like all
of us, but he takes control of it and puts
it in a positive way in that we all feel
comfortable with it."
With an experienced team set to
take the field for Michigan this fall,
the Wolverines know how vital Blais's
season is to their overall team success.
The senior class and those with
prior time on the team know how
"quick it goes"- a phrase Meram used
to describe the brevity of the college
soccer season. But with Blais settled
into back of the net, Michigan can
rest assured that their goalkeeper has 0
one goal in mind - a trip to the NCAA
Tournament for the senior class.
"Everyone knows (Blais') capa-
bilities and what kind of player he
is," Tennant said. "Knowing that and
knowing that we are comfortable and
confident with his abilities, it raises
the confidence of everyone else."
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