Good to Great, to Miss Golf Candidate

October 7, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A seventh grader at the time, Jacqueline Setas followed DeWitt’s Liz Nagel through newspaper articles as the Panthers standout played her way to the 2008 Miss Golf Award.

Nagel is considered perhaps the best ever to come from the Lansing area. But the same is being said now of the Lansing Catholic junior's potential.

Setas has accomplishments to earn to match Nagel, but is off to a strong start with two Division 4 all-state selections. And this summer, Setas found herself finishing second only to Nagel in the stroke play of the Michigan Women’s Amateur – and then matching Nagel by making the semifinals of the match play.

It was a tremendous performance during an excellent summer, and further set the table for the high expectations Setas is making good on this fall.

“It’s crazy to be mentioned in the same breath as her,” Setas said of Nagel. “I feel like this summer, I was playing really well. I feel my game was up there with (the best) too.”

A Second Half High 5 recipient this week, Setas has won five tournaments this season and finished second twice as the two-time MHSAA Division 4 champion Cougars have loaded their schedule with the best from all over the state. She’s averaging 74.3 strokes for 18 holes and 35.9 for nine-hole matches, and last week fired a 68 to win the Capital Area Activities Conference White championship at Wheatfield Valley.

Setas’ most impressive win likely came at the East Lansing Invitational at Walnut Hills Country Club, where she grew up winning junior club championships. She shot a 70 to finish five strokes better than a field that included returning all-state Super Team selection Hannah Pietila of Brighton.

Setas’ runner-up finishes were nearly as impressive as her wins – she shot a 72 at Milford’s Heather Highlands Shootout to finish second to Plymouth Super Team selection Kelsey Murphy, and shot a 76 to finish two strokes behind Muskegon Catholic Central all-stater Aya Johnson at Birmingham Country Club.

Setas shot 39 or better in all seven of her team’s nine-hole matches, finishing first at all but one and shooting lows of 30 and 33.

She is one of an impressive crew of golf talents in the Lansing area this fall: Okemos’ Elle Nichols, like Murphy, also is a returning Super Team selection, and Holt’s Pader Her and Lansing Catholic teammates Dani Crilley and Janie Fineis all can go toe-to-toe with the best in the state.

“Our top three have played incredibly consistent golf, and they’ve had a great run,” Cougars coach Mary Schafer said. “It’s that mixture of athletic ability, loving the sport and wanting to get better. They can have a ton of natural athletic ability, but they don’t reach their potential because they don’t work at it hard enough. If they’re prepared, keep working at it, and work at getting better, they go from being really good to great.”

And in Schafer’s mind, that describes Setas’ progression exactly.

Setas isn’t just a golfer. She plays wing on the basketball team and centerfield in the spring. But break down her golf game, and it’s easy to understand why she’s considered a natural at her favorite sport.

She drives the ball 260 yards, about 15 more than a year ago, and with a sharp short game to match. Her course management also has improved this fall, and her mentality is just right. “Bad bounces, they don’t last long with her,” Schafer said.

But Setas sees her success as a result of something more. She played every day from May into the beginning of high school season, and in tournaments all but two weekends this summer.

“Probably (it's) just the dedication that I’ve put in throughout the years,” Setas said. “People think it’s natural talent, and some of it is. But most of it is the hard work I’ve put in throughout the year.”

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.)