Montague Repeats to 'End Era,' Greenhills Freshman Begins Another in Finals Debut

By Scott DeCamp
Special for

October 17, 2021

EAST LANSING – The Lower Peninsula Division 4 Girls Golf Finals this weekend at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers East featured competitions within the competition. Head-to-head battles came to a head on Saturday.

While Montague went down to the wire in edging Lansing Catholic and repeating as team champion, Ann Arbor Greenhills freshman Mia Melendez outdueled Michigan Center senior Kamryn Shannon for the individual title in a showdown that came down to the final hole.

Montague and Lansing Catholic both shot 675 over the two-day event, but the Wildcats held the upper hand by virtue of the fifth-score tie-breaker. Jackson Lumen Christi finished third (701), followed by Adrian Lenawee Christian in fourth (706) and Remus Chippewa Hills fifth (722).

The Wildcats, who ran away with the title last year in defeating runner-up Lansing Catholic by 27 shots, featured five players under 90 each of the two days this weekend.

“I can’t believe that,” Montague coach Phil Kerr said. “I’m so proud of them. I’m not surprised, but still under these conditions, you’ve got to show up and compete and these girls did.”

Shannon held a two-shot lead over Melendez following a 2-under 70 on Friday, but Melendez made several clutch putts Saturday to make her move during what amounted to a head-to-head match. Melendez chipped in for par on their final hole to wrestle away the medalist honor, while Shannon settled for bogey.

Melendez shot 71 on Saturday for a two-day total of 143, one shot better than Shannon’s 144. The newly-crowned champ called the round “intense.”

“There was a lot of, like, moments where I knew that I had to make a putt and then she had to make a putt, too, so we were just going back and forth,” Melendez said. “It was a lot, and both of us had to make a lot of big runs going next to each other.

“This particularly means a lot because it’s the state championships, and it’s always been my goal to win something like this because everybody’s going to see it and it’s a pretty big deal.”

Ann Arbor Greenhills golfLansing Catholic’s Amanda Meiling finished third at 159, followed by teammate Sailor Somerville, Lenawee Christian’s Lauren Swiggum and South Haven’s Sydney Barnes all tied for fourth (164).

Montague seniors Orianna Bylsma and Gabby Moreau, who were key contributors on last year’s title team, led the Wildcats with top-10 finishes: Bylsma in seventh (165) and Moreau 10th (168).

Traverse City St. Francis’ Grace Slocum placed eighth (166) and Brooklyn Columbia Central’s Logan Bentley ninth (167).

“I’m so proud of the seniors – it’s definitely the end of an era. Ori and Gabby have been through all of it,” Kerr said. “(Their) freshman year, we were nobody. Sophomore year, it was the biggest deal that we made state and then got fourth. They won state (last year), they backed it up (this year).

“Ori shot 79 today, Gabby shot 80 yesterday – a PR by four strokes, at state. They’re just warriors. It didn’t matter what they did all year, it didn’t matter what they did last week, I knew when we showed up that those two were going to perform.”

Six years ago, Montague did not even have a girls golf team. Before last year, the school had never won a Finals title in a girls sport.

Now, the Wildcats have two championships in as many years in girls golf.

“I didn’t even play golf five years ago. I hadn’t even touched a golf club in my life five years ago today,” Moreau said. “And if you would have told me, ‘You’re going to win a state championship,’ I would have said, ‘I don’t play football.’

“I couldn’t have even imagined this. This is so surreal.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Montague’s Orianna Bylsma follows her approach shot Saturday at Forest Akers East. (Middle) Ann Arbor Greenhills’ Mia Melendez lines up a putt during the second round. (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.)