All Pitch in to FHN's 1st Title since 1982

October 21, 2017

By Wes Morgan
Special for Second Half

BATTLE CREEK – Bedford Valley Golf Course doesn’t leave a lot of room for mistakes.

Fortunately for the girls golf team from Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, it hasn’t made all that many this season.

The Huskies secured their first MHSAA championship since 1982 with a two-day total of 656, turning in a round of 329 on Saturday after entering the second round of the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final with a seven-stroke lead. Bloomfield Hills Marian shot up from fifth to runner-up with 668 strokes.

Led by freshman Lilia Henkel’s 79-77-156 (eighth individually), FHN was able to finish strong with big contributions from the entire lineup. Junior Kay Zubkus carded 160 (78-82) for a tie for 10th place individually. Maddie Goodrich, a senior captain, fired an 81 on Saturday for a total of 168, and senior captain Chloe Johnson recorded rounds of 83 and 89 for a 172. Anna Fay shot 93 on Friday and Gabby Mas finished with a 95 on Saturday.

“We had a seven-shot lead going into today and felt very good,” Forest Hills Northern coach Kent Graves said. “That was a good cushion to have. It allowed us to play maybe a little more conservative than we would have if we were behind. Our girls responded. We shot two shots higher than we did yesterday, but it was enough to win and we feel really good about it.

“You don’t win state tournaments at the (Nos.) 1 and 2 spots; you win them at the 3, 4 and even 5 spots. You have to have solid scores there. Our 3, 4 and 5 were exceptionally good this year.”

A key for the Huskies, who finished sixth in Division 2 in 2016, was managing Bedford Valley’s slew of elevated greens, which were even more difficult at times as the leaves fell relentlessly.

Goodrich and Johnson, who played their final prep rounds, did just that. Goodrich pointed to the 391-yard par-5 fifth hole, where she birdied, as the catalyst to her round. She also birdied the par-4 15th hole as part of a strong finish.

“It was like no time passed while I was playing,” Goodrich said of the surreal feeling of going out as a Finals champion. “It just flew by. (Friday) I had a few rough holes and some first-day nerves. Coming into today, I knew I could shoot the score I wanted to if I just went one shot at a time.”

Added Johnson: “It feels amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy. I’ve always dreamed of being a state champion, and I never thought I was going to be able to do it. But here we are.”

Individually, it was Marian freshman Shannon Kennedy who devoured the 5,422-yard layout with a 2-under par 70 in the final round for a medalist total of 146. In her championship debut, Kennedy penciled in five birdies — three in her final eight holes — to finish ahead of Midland Dow senior Alexis Carras (74-75-149). Kennedy posted a round of 76 on Friday.

With 10 years of hockey experience, Kennedy’s trademark early on in her career is her length off the tee. Saturday she was able to convert distance to scoring with her effort on the greens.

Pressure doesn’t seem to bother her,” Marian co-coach Cathie Fritz said of Kennedy. “The hardest thing was it was a slow round, so there was a lot of standing around before they’d tee off. We had her walk to a tree or walk somewhere else so she wasn’t just standing there staring at it. She just has a great attitude, and she’s truly one of the most coachable kids I’ve ever been around. She made the clutch putts that she needed to make, whether they were for birdie or for par.”

Marian shot 16 strokes better Saturday. Senior Alexandra Robb posted an 81 for a three-stroke improvement from Round 1, freshman Lauren Sass’ 85 was seven shots better than Friday’s round, sophomore Marlo Hudson was steady with 90-90 and junior Kate Zink trimmed nine shots from her first-round score to finish with a 90 on Saturday.

For being as young as Shannon and Lauren are, it’s really fun to see them so calm under pressure,” Fritz said.

Kennedy birdied two of her first seven holes with three pars in the mix. Two of those birdies were on par-5s, and she also managed to birdie the tricky par-3 12th hole.

“It was a crazy day,” she said. “It was long, it was hot and it was tiring. I knew I had to pull it together and fire a good number on the back nine, and I did.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Forest Hills Northern’s Chloe Johnson rolls a putt during Saturday’s second round. (Middle) Marian’s Shannon Kennedy watches one of her drives on the way to claiming the medalist honor. (Photos by Wes Morgan.)

3-Sport Standout Sluss Gives Lenawee Christian All-State Boost for Every Season

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

January 11, 2023

ADRIAN – Avery Sluss picked up a golf club for the first time her freshmen year at Adrian Lenawee Christian. Now she’s an all-state golfer.

Southeast & BorderSluss started playing basketball because it was a way for her and her older brother, Gavin, to connect. She’s now the leading scorer on the Cougars basketball team a year after receiving all-state recognition.

Everything she touches seems to turn to gold. She will return to the soccer field in the spring already with her college plans in place. She signed recently to play goalkeeper at Indiana Wesleyan University.

“I’ve learned so much from sports,” Avery said. “It teaches me a lot about life.”

Her coaches call her a self-motivated athlete, quiet leader and someone dedicated to her faith, her teammates, and academics. She is a 4.0 student and has played four years of varsity golf, basketball, and soccer. She’s earned all-state recognition in all three sports.

“She is very self-motivated,” said first-year Lenawee Christian girls basketball coach Emilie Beach. “She doesn’t miss workouts or practices. She pushes herself hard. She forces others to rise (around her).”

Sluss is in her fourth season on the Lenawee Christian varsity basketball team. This year her role changed from mostly a defensive specialist to scorer.

Sluss puts up a shot during last season’s Division 4 Semifinal at Breslin Center.Beach said Avery hasn’t changed her positive attitude with the changes in her role on the team. She has a high basketball IQ, Beach said, which helps her on the court.

“It can be tough and frustrating, but she comes in with a great attitude each day and leads her teammates,” Beach said. “She is a quiet leader who leads by example. She is hardest on herself, and that’s where a lot of her motivation comes from.”

The Cougars have had great success on the basketball floor the last several years, and Sluss has been part of it. She’s played alongside all-staters and played at the Breslin Center. She started and played 20 minutes in last year’s Semifinal loss to Plymouth Christian Academy.

This season she’s averaging 14.5 points a game, with 16 3-pointers, and has scored at least 17 points four times.

“It’s very different, but I like the role I’m in now,” she said. “Now, it’s like you have to score. I’ve accepted it. I’m just trying my best to fulfill that role for my teammates.”

Sluss sat out the fall travel soccer season while she was recovering from a slight back injury. But she was able to hit the golf course. She shot a two-day total of 186 at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final, helping the Cougars finish second as a team. A year earlier Sluss shot an 89 and 87 and helped the Cougars finish fourth overall.

Not bad for someone who didn’t pick up a golf club until just a few years ago.

“Golf was new to me my freshman year,” she said. “Some of my friends said I should try it, so I did. I went to the range maybe one or two times before I started to play. I’ve loved it.”

As far as sports goes, soccer was her first love. She started playing at the age of 4 when a neighborhood dad gathered a few girls together and formed a team.

“We started playing in the back yard,” she said. “I’ve been playing soccer ever since. My first travel team was when I was 7.”

Sluss first started thinking about playing college soccer when she was in kindergarten.

“I’ve always wanted to play soccer in college,” she said. “I’ve dreamed about that. I’ve spent so much time on the sport that it would be silly not to. I want it to pay off with college.”

Sluss plants a chip on the green. She used to play multiple positions but turned to goalkeeper at the age of 12.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “There are a lot of little things. The mental part of being a goalkeeper is important.”

After being named to the coaches association all-state third team last year, Sluss is primed for a big season this spring, especially with her college choice behind her.

“It is a strong Christian college, which was important to me,” she said. “It’s a lot like Lenawee Christian. Everyone on the soccer team was great when I met them, and the girls are so nice.”

Sluss has become adept at mixing sports with academics and life.

“Balance is a big issue,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, especially doing two at a time.

“My whole family, my parents (David and Kristen), they always push me to be the best I can be. I owe them a lot. Even my little sister (Addie) pushes me to do my best.”

Avery’s family moved from Toledo to the Adrian area several years ago, and the two perfectly complement to each other.

“Lenawee Christian has been a great fit for me,” she said. “All of the people are awesome, and I have grown in my faith here.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Avery Sluss gathers up the ball while playing keeper for Lenawee Christian’s soccer team. (Middle) Sluss puts up a shot during last season’s Division 4 Semifinal at Breslin Center. (Below) Sluss plants a chip on the green. (Photos courtesy of the Lenawee Christian athletic department.)