Focused Fenton Aiming for Record Finish

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

September 26, 2017

The middle and ring fingers join the thumbs in making a heart, or at least most of the popular heart hand gesture.

The forefinger and pinky, however, are showing off their wild side, pointed up as if to say, “Rock on.”

To most, it’s meaningless finger gymnastics. To the Fenton girls golf team, however, it’s the symbol for their team motto: Grind.

“It kind of calms us down in a way,” Fenton senior Molly Gundry said. “If you’re having a really stressful round and you see someone else from the team and they give you the grind symbol, it reminds you to settle down, because this isn’t just for yourself, it’s for the team.”

Whether it’s through grinding out holes or simply making shots, the Tigers are off to quite a start this fall. They’ve shot a school-record nine-hole score (163) twice.

They’ve won the Genesee County Tournament, and find themselves ranked No. 9 in the Division 2 Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Association Lower Peninsula rankings.

“I think that last year we kind of had a good idea that we were OK,” senior Margaret Berry said. “Coming into this year, we knew we had to put in a lot of work to be as good as we wanted to be. But I think last year, we knew since we weren’t graduating any seniors, that this was kind of our year.”

Fenton placed ninth in the MHSAA LP Division 2 Finals a year ago at The Meadows on the campus of Grand Valley State University. Four of the girls who played there – Gundry, Berry, senior Keegan Miller and junior Lily Horning  – are back this season, as is Horning’s classmate, Angela Hanners. Freshman Brooke Herbstreit, the daughter of veteran coach Kurt Herbstreit, has joined the team this season and found herself among the scorers often, making the Tigers even deeper.

“Going into freshman year we had (Gundry, Miller and Berry), and we were all pretty good for freshmen,” Gundry said. “I knew that by the time we were seniors, we were going to have a pretty good team -- especially during our junior year, we realized that next year could be really good.”

The team’s goal is stated explicitly on its Facebook page under the “Mission” heading: “Win the Metro League and go to states.” While it’s a goal the Tigers target every season, this year it feels as attainable as in any other. The team has set an even greater goal of finishing top-five at the Finals, matching or even besting Fenton’s best finishes (fifth, twice, most recently in 2013).

“If we all play our absolute best, I think we could have a chance,” Berry said. “I’m not sure if we could finish first, but maybe in the top two or three.”

Of course, to even get there, the Tigers will need to place in the top three of a loaded Regional. Fortunately for them, the tournament will be played at Fenton Farms Golf Course, which isn’t their home course (that’s Tyrone Hills) but is awfully familiar.

“I was always looking forward to this year,” Kurt Herbstreit said. “That’s one of the reasons we put in to host the Regional. Our Regional is extremely tough -- it’s a really tough region. Four of the top 10 teams that are ranked right now are in our region, and there’s a fifth one that could probably be in the top 10. So that’s five teams who are deserving to go to state, and only three are going to go. We all know it, so there’s going to be a lot of nerves on Oct. 11 for our Regional, because we know it’s stacked.”

With his team aiming to get back to the Finals and playing well there, Herbstreit has had to work on keeping his golfers focused throughout the season. With a veteran group that’s close on and off the course, however, that hasn’t been difficult.

“Golf is so individual, especially during the summer, so the girls really look forward to coming together as a team,” Kurt Herbstreit said. “As I’ve done this for 11 years, the thing I tried to focus on is making it a team, making it a family. They get along really well, and we try to have them be competitive, but yet still be teammates. They’ll get together for fun rounds and things like that.”

When the big tournaments do get here, the Tigers know they have the talent to do well, and even if things aren’t going well, it will only take one hand gesture from a teammate to remind them of what they need to do.

“One bad hole can end up making your round or breaking your round,” Gundry said. “We just need to think about grinding it out.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) From left, Fenton's Keegan Miller, Brooke Herbstreit, Margaret Berry, Molly Gundry and Lily Horning hold up their trophy after winning the Genesee County championship this month. (Middle) Miller watches one of her shots during last season's LP Division 2 Final, where the Tigers finished ninth. (Top photo courtesy of Fenton girls golf, bottom by

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.)