East Kentwood Ace Finishes at 4th Final

October 20, 2015

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

KENTWOOD – Mackenzie Keenoy walked off the golf course for the final time as a high school golfer when she competed as an individual at Saturday's MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final.

The East Kentwood senior standout didn’t play as well as she had envisioned. However, the 17-year-old had no regrets about her last tournament that was played amid less-than-ideal conditions at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University.

“The wind was crazy on the first day and it was cold, and it started snowing for most of the second day,” Keenoy said. “The wind never stopped blowing, and my ball never wanted to go on the greens. That’s how my career ended, but it’s OK. I didn’t do as well as I thought I was going to, but I’m pretty positive about it and now I’m ready for the next step.”

Keenoy struggled to a 91 in her opening round, but recovered to shoot a respectable final-round 83. Her 174 total wasn’t among the top 10, but it didn’t take away from the banner high school career she enjoyed during an incredible four-year run.

Keenoy became one of the catalysts in the resurrection of the East Kentwood program. She took part in four MHSAA Finals – three with her team.

The Falcons placed in the top 10 at the Finals three consecutive years, sparked by the talents of Keenoy and spring graduate Sarah White. As a junior last season, Keenoy carded a top-10 individual finish to help lead the team to the program’s first MHSAA Finals championship – a resounding 22-stroke victory that she will forever cherish.

“It was awesome,” Keenoy recalled. “We knew we had a good shot going in, and after the first day we didn’t even look at the scoreboard. We didn’t want to know. We went out the second day and just worked our hardest, and we knew after the front nine that we had it. It was super exciting, especially because all the seniors were graduating.”

The Falcons didn’t have a chance to defend their title this season. Keenoy was the lone senior after heavy graduation losses left the Falcons with an inexperienced and young squad.

Still, Keenoy shined as the team’s No. 1 golfer. She won six tournaments, including the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red midseason and postseason tournaments, and emerged as the top player in the Grand Rapids area.

Keenoy fired a 75 at her MHSAA Regional to qualify for the Final as an individual.

“I just wanted to do my best and be there for my team because they weren’t there,” Keenoy said. “It was different not having any of my teammates there and warming up by myself. I would’ve much rather been there with my team, but I was just happy to represent East Kentwood at the state finals this year.”

East Kentwood girls golf coach Alex Giarmo was proud of Keenoy’s ability to persevere at the Final after a rough first day.

“We’ve been through a lot together and it was cool to do it one more time with her,” Giarmo said. “We had a lot of fun, and she never got down. Crazy things can happen in golf, but there was never a time when I thought that this was going to blow up. She executed really well on Day 2, and could’ve shot really low if not for a couple bad bounces.”

Overall this fall, Keenoy owned a scoring average of 78.1 for 18 holes and 36 strokes for nine.

“I won every tournament I played except for Regionals and the Finals, so I met every single goal,” Keenoy said. “I went out there and played for my team every day and worked hard at practice. With our team being so young, I wanted to be a role model for them.”

Keenoy embraced her role as a mentor to her younger teammates. She preached to them about work ethic and what it would take to achieve their individual goals.

“I loved it,” she said. “They didn’t know what to expect, so I tried to help them as much as I could. I told them, ‘This is what you have to do, you have to work hard to get where you want to be.’ I showed them how hard I worked the past three years, and this is where it got me.

“They all want to be great players, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for them next year.”

Giarmo said Keenoy’s experience and tutelage were important contributors to the team’s growth.

“She was a big help, and when you have a senior leader that has been through that many battles, it really helps your team look more mature,” he said. “It was a tight-knit team, and she did a great job leading them through moments of uncertainty.  She had a phenomenal year, and she really embraced that No. 1 role. It was nice to see her get wins, and she was very reliable. That’s what you want in your No. 1 golfer.”

Keenoy, whose best attribute is her putting, is taking her talents to college. She recently committed to the University of Findlay in Ohio.

Keenoy chose the Oilers, who competed in the Division II National Tournament in the spring, after also considering Wayne State and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

“I’m really happy that I made that decision, and I liked the atmosphere of the whole place,” said Keenoy, who’s already been accepted into the nursing program. “It’s very much like Grand Rapids, and it’s the kind of place that I was looking for to go. It was the perfect fit for me, and I’m really excited.”

With her high school career finished, Keenoy is eager to reach her potential in the upcoming years.

“I’m looking forward to the future,” she said. “I worked my butt off to get here and that hard work has paid off. I’m excited now to transition from being a Falcon to an Oiler.”

Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at dream100@comcast.net with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Mackenzie Keenoy putts during Saturday’s second round of the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final. (Middle) Keenoy, hoisting the trophy, poses with her teammates and coaches after last season’s championship win. (Below) Keenoy drives a shot at The Meadows at GVSU. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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.)