Lutheran North Ace, Cranbrook Kingswood Complete Title Climbs

By Scott DeCamp
Special for

October 17, 2021

EAST LANSING – Lauren Timpf came up a little short of her lofty goals at last year’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 Girls Golf Final. The Macomb Lutheran North sophomore was not going to be denied this weekend at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West.

Same went for the seasoned Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood team in its fourth-straight trip to the Finals.

Timpf wrapped up medalist honors, while Cranbrook Kingswood completed its team-championship mission on a chilly, windy Saturday.

After she fired an eye-popping 6-under 66 Friday, Timpf followed with a solid 1-over 73 Saturday in challenging conditions en route to a 14-shot victory over the rest of the field. Meanwhile, Cranbrook Kingswood collected its first Finals title since 2006 by shooting 694 for a six-stroke victory over runner-up Grosse Ile.

“I was hoping to go a little bit lower – that was my goal coming into today; really, to get it to double-digits under par was my goal,” said Timpf, who missed a playoff for medalist honors in last year’s Final by one shot when she bogeyed her final hole.

“It was tough conditions today, but I didn’t play my best. I let some shots get away, had a double out there. It was just a little bit tougher today.”

Whitehall’s Karli VanDuinen was runner-up at 153 (78-75), followed by Grosse Ile’s Lily Bargamian in third (154), Grand Rapids South Christian’s Ashley Thomasma fourth (160) and Freeland’s Averie Pumford fifth (162). 

Cranbrook Kingswood’s Natasha Samsonov (sixth, 163), Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Ashley Carroll and Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Ava Wisinski (tied for seventh, 165), Grand Rapids Christian’s Sara Muir (ninth, 167) and Ada Forest Hills Eastern’s Sophie Skoog (10th, 169) rounded out the top 10.

In the final team standings of the two-day tourney, South Christian placed third (708), while 2019 and 2020 champ Marian finished fourth (729). Grand Rapids Catholic Central took fifth (738).

Cranbrook Kingswood golf“For my seniors that played today, this was their fourth state (finals tournament). They played in it as freshmen. … For them, they weren’t nervous,” said Cranes coach John Minnich, whose last three teams finished fifth, eighth and fourth at the Division 3 Finals. Three of the five players in this year’s lineup were seniors who were plenty familiar with playing at the championship level.

Cranbrook Kingswood also had finished Division 3 runner-up from 2012-14.

In addition to Samsonov, seniors Ashley Cong and Katherine Li shot 175 and 186, respectively, to help Cranbrook Kingswood. Sophomores Sienna Ilitch and Mackenzie Behnke posted 163 and 189, in that order.

Nobody was going to give Timpf a run for her money, but for Cranbrook Kingswood, there was strength in numbers. A tough schedule throughout the season, competing against the likes of eventual Division 1 champ Northville, perennial power Marian and Division 2 fourth-place Farmington Hills Mercy, had the Cranes prepared to win Division 3 this time.

“It was one of those things where I told them, ‘You know, you guys could probably have a pretty special team. Stay together, keep working at it, keep playing,’ and they did,” Minnich said. “They put in the time, they put in the work and, you know, it was a great season.

“The program is kind of on an up-tick. (Cranbrook) girls want to play, they’re excited about playing golf,” Minnich said.

Timpf has been playing golf since a young age.

And she’s quite familiar with the Forest Akers courses. In July, Timpf won the 43rd Michigan Girls’ Junior State Amateur Championship at Forest Akers East.

In the summer of 2020, Timpf gave eventual Michigan Women’s Amateur champion Anna Kramer a run before falling to her in the quarterfinals, 1-up, at Forest Akers West.

“(Last year’s Finals finish) did drive me because I knew that I could have won that tournament. I mean, I bogeyed the last hole to miss the playoff,” Timpf said. “And since we couldn’t take flagsticks out (last year), two my 3-footers hit the (stick) and bounced out.”

Everything about Timpf’s game was working Friday, and putts were dropping.

It was more of a challenge Saturday.

“I mean, yesterday I felt like I played great – everything was working together, putts were dropping,” Timpf said. “Today, not as many, but I did get away with a few. I missed a few 3-footers.”

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PHOTOS Macomb Lutheran North’s Lauren Timpf follows a shot during Friday’s first round. (Middle) Cranbrook’s Natasha Samsonov tees off during first-day play. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)