Gremlins Push Title Streak to 4

By John Vrancic
Special for

May 28, 2014

MARQUETTE — The Houghton girls capped a short, but successful golf season Wednesday as they captured their fourth consecutive MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 title with 396 strokes.

Runner-up Marquette finished with 423, with third-place Escanaba at 433.

“Three of our girls didn’t play until May 13 when we went to the Negaunee Range Bank Invitational at Wawanowin (Golf Club near Ishpeming),” said Gremlins’ coach Corey Markham. “Some of our new girls did real well. We have a couple real talented golfers, and our seniors (Noelle Polakowski and Megan Kelly) have been real consistent. Noelle and Megan have been part of four U.P. championships. This has been a real hard-working group.”

Gladstone senior Callie Jensen earned medalist honors with a 90 on the Marquette Golf & Country Club’s Heritage course. She was followed by Marquette’s Sydney Higgins with 94 and Kelly at 95.

“I went into a hazard and got a nine on it (on the par-5, No. 4 hole),” said Jensen, who will study at the University of Michigan this fall. “I had a little lane, but I hit a tree and ended up back in the hazard. I think if I could have gotten that down to a six, I would have been pleased with it.

“Overall, I played decent. This is a very challenging course. The greens were faster than we’re used to, although I like fast greens. So I can’t complain about that.”

Like most U.P. teams, Gladstone also started later than usual. The Braves opened their season May 1 at the Escanaba Country Club.

“We had a lot of tournaments cancelled due to bad weather,” said Jensen. “The late start made it harder to get into the swing of things.”

After the tournament, Braves’ coach Dane Quigley paid tribute to Jensen’s farewell performance and career.

“I thought Callie played well,” he said. “Yes, she took a nine on one hole. But that’s a quality golfer and young lady we’re losing. Callie is very dedicated to our program. She’s going to be missed, as (will) all of our other seniors.”

Manistique junior Hailey Hoholik placed fourth at 97, a stroke better than Escanaba senior Kelsey Motto.

“I thought everything went pretty good, although I should have done better on a few holes,” said Hoholik, who played on the Heritage course for the first time. “My putting didn’t go as well as I hoped. The greens were fast. Ours at home (at Indian Lake Golf Course) are pretty slow. This was a big adjustment at first. But by the third hole, I started getting used to it.”

Like Jensen, Motto received her due from Escanaba coach Brian Robinette.

“Kelsey has been an ambassador for our golf team,” said Robinette. “We spent four years together. Our girls’ program was barely breathing when I started. Kelsey knows what it takes to nurture the younger kids and play the game the right way. She has been a top-five golfer from the beginning of the year to the end. I think she’s going into college golf with a lot of momentum and self-belief.”

Motto, who will continue her golf career at St. Norbert College in DePere, Wis., next season, was followed by Houghton’s Adison Cook with a 99 and Polakowski with a 100.

The Gremlins also had a fourth golfer in the top 10, with Taryn Kaurala taking ninth overall at 102.

“Some of our girls came up through the junior program at Michigan Tech, which is a great program,” Markham said. “They’re all very competitive. They’ve been able to shake it off when they had a bad hole.” 

Polakowski shared seventh with Marquette’s Hannah Crampton.

“Sydney’s second-place finish helped us get where we needed,” Marquette coach Ben Smith said. “Hannah had a solid round and Leah Anderson has been in the mix all year. Houghton is solid. It seems like Megan Kelly has been with them forever. I’m thrilled for our girls. Their scores got better through the season.” 

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PHOTOS: (Top) Houghton's Megan Kelly hits from the first fairway during the MHSAA Division 1 U.P. Final on Wednesday. (Middle) Gladstone's Callie Jensen hits out of a bunker on the first fairway; she went on to finish first individually with a 90. (Photos by Adelle Whitefoot.)

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.)