Forest Hills Eastern Rises at D3 Final

October 20, 2012

By Gary Kalahar
Special to Second Half

BATTLE CREEK – The pain in Kelsey Sands’ shoulder Saturday morning had her thinking she would not be playing in the final round of the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 golf tournament.

“I was crying,” the Ada Forest Hills Eastern senior said of the injury plaguing her during her warm-up at Bedford Valley in Battle Creek.

Sands not only teed it up, her huge improvement from Friday’s first round typified her team’s comeback as the Hawks emerged from a tight four-team race to win their second state title in three years.

Top-ranked Forest Hills Eastern totaled 710 strokes to nip the 712 of Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood and the 713 of both Grosse Ile and Detroit Country Day. Forest Hills Eastern started the final round in fourth place, 18 strokes behind Grosse Ile.

All five Forest Hills Eastern players improved their scores in the second round, played in cold conditions but markedly better than the rain and wind of the first round. Just three other players in the field improved more than Sands, who shot a 94 to come in as the Hawks’ fourth scorer after a first-round 109.

“You need to have all four scores,” Forest Hills Eastern coach Brian Telzerow said. “She wasn’t going to play. We prayed as a team, and she said, ‘Let’s give it a try.’ She played phenomenally.”

Forest Hills Eastern did not have another player in Battle Creek, so without Sands the Hawks would not have the ability to throw out a score.

“It went away maybe a third of the way through the round,” Sands said of the pain she believed came from a pulled muscle and which subsided as she got her round off to a solid start with three bogeys and a par.

Henna Singh’s fifth-place 167 with a second-round 83 led Forest Hills Eastern. Jordan Duvall shot the Hawks’ best score of the round, an 81 that left her at 169 for her third straight top-10 state finish.

“I usually come out and play well in the state finals,” Duvall said. “It’s fun for me. I like the competition at the state level.”

With his team facing a large deficit after the first round, Telzerow channeled some Ben Crenshaw and reminded his team of the U.S. team’s comeback in the Ryder Cup in 1999.

“I said, ‘I’ve got a feeling. That’s all I’m going to say about it,’ ” Telzerow said.

“Coach told us the story about the Ryder Cup, and we took that in perspective and said, ‘Hey, it’s 4½ shots a person, why not come back and make it happen,’ ” Duvall said. “We knew we had the potential. We knew it was going to be tough, but we knew we could do it.”

Anne Parlmer shot an 85 for the Hawks’ other final-round score.

“That was remarkable to come up with those scores, especially in these conditions,” Grosse Ile coach Jim Bennett said after the Hawks stopped his team’s bid for a third title in four years. “They stepped up when they had to.”

Telzerow said being in fourth place after the first round might have aided his team’s rally. Players from the top three teams were paired together for the final round.

“We’re the fourth team, so nobody’s really going to be paying attention to us,” Telzerow said. “Let’s go play our game and not worry about the other teams. There wasn’t any of that nervousness about how any of the other players were doing. They could play their own kind of golf.”

“They really came from out of nowhere and beat us,” Country Day coach Peggy Steffan said after her team posted its best MHSAA Finals finish.

Her fourth trip to the Finals didn’t make handling the nerves any easier for Dearborn Divine Child senior Natalie Blazo.

“(Friday) I was a wreck,” Blazo said.

But Saturday was a lot better, and Blazo shot the round of the tournament to claim medalist honors. Her 76 was four strokes clear of the next-best round and gave her a 157 total.

Blazo was seven strokes ahead of Clio’s Ayla Bogie and Cranbrook-Kingswood’s Cordelia Chan.

“I thought that I had a chance (to be medalist), yes,” Blazo said. “That I could do it, a little iffy. I wanted to get in the top 10 at least.”

Blazo punctuated her round with a tap-in birdie on her last hole, the par-4 No. 3. Blazo and Bogie, playing as individual qualifiers, were tied for the lead after the first round and thus paired together in the second round.

“There were some girls who were close who were playing with their teams, so I always knew there could be somebody shooting lower than me,” Blazo said. “My putting was great. I made some long ones to save par.”

Jackson Northwest took fifth at 743 for its third consecutive finish in the top six.

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PHOTOS: (Top) The top-10 placers stand together after receiving their medals Saturday. (Middle) Ada Forest Hills Eastern poses with its team trophy at Saturday's Division 3 Final. (Click to see more from

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 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.)