Battling Back

By Sean Ostruszka

Desire. Commitment. Perseverance.

These words repeatedly poured out of NIU men’s soccer midfielder Chris VanDuerm as he described working his way into a starting role this season.

The Wheaton-Warrenville South grad scored each of the Huskies’ game-winning goals this weekend in 3-2 wins over Western Illinois and Valparaiso.

However, the 5-foot-8 junior had to do more than just apply himself to earn NIU coach Steve Simmons’ praise.

Before his career as a Huskie even started, CVD, as he is called by the team, put himself in a hole.

VanDuerm fractured the fibula and tibia in his right leg playing for his former club team, the Chicago Sockers, in summer 2002 at a regional tournament.

“I went in to slide-tackle my guy and he just went right through me,” VanDuerm said.

After taking a medical redshirt, VanDuerm rehabilitated and returned to the field for Simmons’ first season at the helm.

The third-year coach didn’t know anything about VanDuerm, forcing him to work extra hard to show what he had to offer.

“Chris really started from minus ground- zero with us,” Simmons said. “He’s really had to put in the work to get where he’s at. He’s one of the survivors. He’s earned all the good things that have happened.”

VanDuerm admitted he was getting tossed around on the field in his first chance to display his abilities.

Following a 2003 season where he saw time in seven of NIU’s 18 games, starting two, VanDuerm had a long chat with Simmons about getting into the weight room.

“Now I’d rate him as one of our top weight lifters,” Simmons said. “Pound for pound, his technique is great, and it came from putting in a good amount of work in the summer.”

The work paid off for the business administration major, as he received time in each of the Huskies’ 19 games last season.

He scored his only goal of the season in a 4-1 win over Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Most importantly, VanDuerm was granted starts in three consecutive games, beginning with NIU’s 1-0 home win against Wisconsin.

“Chris is multi-functional,” Simmons said. “He comes off the bench and really changes things. Starting a game isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. It’s how you end it, and Chris realizes that.”

VanDuerm admitted he understands everyone has a specific role on the team, and has no problem coming off the bench. However, he has always wanted to be in the starting lineup.

“It’s great to be recognized,” VanDuerm said. “But it’s not so much about being in the spotlight. It’s more about doing what’s expected of you when you’re on the field.”

VanDuerm is finally getting it done on the field consistently, and his game-winning goal against WIU earned him a starting spot at Valparaiso.

Now that VanDuerm has two game-winning goals on his resumé, he’s just glad the coaches have rewarded him for his work.

“It’s nice to know that the coaches are paying attention and [noticing],” VanDuerm said.

However, the humble VanDuerm, who added more than 15 pounds to his frame this summer, said it really isn’t all that big of a deal.

“I’ve been wanting to do this since I’ve got here,” VanDuerm said. “I’m willing to do anything I’m called upon to do, and it’s shown in my production.”