Escanaba Conquers Cold to Repeat

June 1, 2017

By Ryan Stieg
Special for Second Half

MARQUETTE — There was a brisk wind blowing Wednesday afternoon on the Northern Michigan University Golf Course, but the tough conditions didn’t have an effect on the Escanaba girls team.

The Eskymos fought their way through the cold and won their second straight Upper Peninsula Division 1 title – and their efforts delighted Escanaba coach Brian Robinette. 

“The girls just really went out and performed today,” he said. “We needed to show up as a team today, and we definitely did that. This was a highly successful season. The girls kept improving and had great attitudes, and they’re an easy team to coach because they like golf. 

"It’s easy to coach someone who likes the sport they’re in. They were really dedicated and serious about the game, and it showed out there today.”

At the 10-team meet, the Eskymos finished with a comfortable 18-stroke lead over Houghton (351 to 369) to repeat as champs. That wasn’t all for Escanaba though as Paxton Johnson was medalist for the second year in a row, shooting a 75.

When asked if she was used to constantly winning tournaments, Johnson put that thought to rest quickly.

“You never get used to this,” she said with a laugh. “It feels great every time. My wedges worked out great for me today, and I just liked how I did.”

For the second-place Gremlins, it was a disappointing outcome, but coach Ruth Ryynanen felt her team left it all on the course.

“The day went pretty well,” she said. “We’ve played here before, and I think that helped us a bit. One of our girls (Kaaren Liston) had a personal best with a 77, and that was wonderful to see. She is always trying harder and does her absolute best.

“We have a good group coming back next year and I have five girls who didn’t even get to play today that have been practicing hard and could step up for us.”

Marquette took third place with a score of 390, and Redettes head coach Ben Smith thought they had a great day overall.

“Since we played at two different sites (the boys were at Marquette Golf Club), I didn’t get to see a lot of them, but from what I know, (the girls) played really well,” he said. “Ellie (Hicks) shot an 85, and I’m happy for her because that’s a great way to end her junior year. Today was just a great day for them to come together, and I hope that they can build on that.”

Menominee also finished with a score of 390, but had to settle for fourth due to a disqualification.

Individually, Liston took second place, Hicks finished third, and the Escanaba trio of Sam Henderson (91), Megan Dagenais (92) and Darby Beckon (93) took fourth through sixth, respectively.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Escanaba’s Sam Henderson, left, finished fourth individually while Houghton’s Kaitlyn McKay just missed placing among the top 10 individuals. (Middle) Aspen Micheln watches one of her shots for third-place Marquette. (Photos by Rachel Oakley.) 

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

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

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 [email protected] 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.)