By Dean Holzwarth
Special to Second Half
ALLENDALE – It was a case of mixed emotions for Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood's Cordelia Chan.
The junior standout was elated to become the individual champion at Saturday's MHSAA Division 3 Final, but also heartbroken by her team's runner-up finish.
Chan posted a two-day total of 157 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University to win medalist honors.
She was three shots better than teammate Greer Clausen, who finished runner-up with a 160.
Chan was the only player in the field to break 80 in both rounds. She fired a 5-over 78 Friday and closed with a 6-over 79 Saturday.
“I'm feeling kind of upset because my team didn't win, and then I kind of feel regret because I tripled the last hole and there were some putts that I did leave out there,” Chan said. “But I do feel happy that I won. I wish I could've had both.”
In the closest team competition in recent Finals history, a fifth score tiebreaker was needed to decide the champion.
Top-ranked Detroit Country Day and second-ranked Cranbrook-Kingswood were knotted up with identical scores of 707 after 36 holes, but the Yellowjackets won based on the combined aggregate of the fifth score from both days.
It was the first MHSAA Finals title for Country Day in girls golf. The program has been in existence since 2002.
“Oh my gosh, it was too close for comfort,” said Yellowjackets coach Peggy Steffan, whose team placed third last year by three strokes to Ada Forest Hills Eastern.
“We've always been rivals with Cranbrook, a friendly rivalry, and we didn't play our best today and they played really well. It's just a good thing we had a good day yesterday (Friday), and it couldn't be any closer coming down to that fifth score.”
Senior Ellie Miller led Country Day with a 162 total and was third overall following rounds of 82 and 80.
Junior Nicole Junn finished at 179, while sophomore Simran Brar and senior Monika Hedni came in at 183 and 184, respectively.
“We're just so happy right now,” said Miller, who finished among the individual top 10 for the second straight season. “We didn't think this would be a reality and now it is. We really worked together this season and we're all really close friends.”
Hedni thought her team had won by a single stroke before she was corrected by her coach.
“We're in a little bit of shock, and thank God we all pulled through,” Hedni said. “We're really happy and excited, and we really wanted to improve this year and play well.”
Country Day opened with a 347 and took a commanding 13-stroke lead into Saturday's final round.
However, Cranbrook-Kingswood stormed back with its own 347 to even the score.
The Yellowjackets edged the Cranes by one stroke at Regionals.
“They told us coaches that with the possibility of bad weather, if they couldn't get 18 holes in the second day, then the first day scores would stand,” Steffan said. “We talked about having to come out strong in case we didn't play (Saturday), and I think the girls were nervous today because they knew they were ahead.
“When you're in second place, you have nothing to lose. When you're in first place, you just have to hold on. They scared me a little bit.”
It was the second consecutive runner-up finish at the Finals for Cranbrook-Kingswood, which finished two strokes back last season.
Cranes coach Mark Moyer commended his team for improving by 13 strokes from Friday, but he was disappointed by the final outcome.
“It's real tough,” he said. “I knew it would go to the fifth position, but I didn't know it was the aggregate of both days. The girls are obviously disappointed with the what if, what if, but everybody can do the what ifs, so you have to let it go.
“With the group that played today, there was only one senior, so we have a lot of girls coming back and we'll use this as a learning experience to move forward. I congratulate Country Day on the job they did.”
Moyer was thrilled by the play of Chan, who placed runner-up in last year's Finals.
“It's tremendous, and she has worked so hard, not only during the season, but starting back to early spring,” Moyer said. “It's really impressive to see a young lady that can pull it together, and she's only a junior. It's exciting to know we have her coming back next year.”
Chan said she wasn't motivated by coming close last year.
“It was more about the team,” she said. “I wanted to play well for my team because I know I'm one of the leaders, but winning first is kind of cool, too.
“I knew it was going to be close because the players before me were playing well, too. I just wanted to wait and not get too excited.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Country Day's Monika Hedni follows through on a putt during Saturday's Division 3 Final. (Middle) Eventual individual champion Cordelia Chan of Cranbrook-Kingswood fires a chip out of the rough at The Meadows. Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.)
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.
Sluss 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.
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.”
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.)