New Division, Same Mustangs Success

October 21, 2017

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Macomb Lutheran North girls golf coach Lori Gill admitted the news came as a surprise.

Once the season commenced, Gill found out from Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood coach Mark Moyer that Lutheran North would be competing in Division 3 this year.

It was a significant revelation, given Lutheran North won the state title in Lower Peninsula Division 4 last season.  

“I got blindsided with it,” Gill said. “I had my top three players from last year, and they were strong. I thought we might be able to squeak into the top three.”

Lutheran North did better than that, squeaking into the “top one” by winning the Division 3 title Saturday at Michigan State’s Forest Akers West.

The Mustangs shot a two-day total of 697, three shots better than the 700 produced by runner-up Grand Rapids South Christian.

Three-time reigning champion Spring Lake was third with a 709, Cranbrook was fourth at 718 and Flint Powers Catholic rounded out the top five with a final score of 749.

Lutheran North entered the day one shot ahead of South Christian and three ahead of Cranbrook after Friday’s first round, but it became a battle between Lutheran North and South Christian as the final day progressed.

Lutheran North ended up shooting a 341 on Saturday thanks in large part to senior Serena Nguyen, who ended her high school career finishing as the runner-up individually with a two-day score of 152 (78-74).

Junior Kaity Rittner added a 163 (84-79) and senior Grace Farquhar a 163 (90-83) to flank Nguyen for Lutheran North.

“I told the girls that they had to play their very, very best and couldn’t falter today, and they didn’t,” Gill said. “Yesterday, I think the nerves spoke to them a lot.”

So, now that Lutheran North moved up and won it all in Division 3, will the Mustangs go up to Division 2 next year?

“No,” Gill said with a laugh. “I think we are happy here or below.”

South Christian was led by junior Natalie Samdal, who had a two-day total of 158 (80-78).

“We thought we had a shot at top three, so we definitely reached our goal,” Grand Rapids South Christian coach Ben Cook said. “We are very excited. A 343 (on Saturday) is a very good score for us.”

Also producing a good score once again was Pontiac Notre Dame Prep junior Danielle Staskowski.

After winning the individual Division 3 title in a playoff last year as a sophomore, Staskowski successfully repeated by playing brilliant golf on a difficult Forest Akers West course.

Staskowski shot identical even-par scores of 72 both Friday and Saturday to finish with a total of 144, a healthy eight shots ahead of Nguyen.

“My putter was really strong,” Staskowski said. “I made a lot of putts overall this weekend.

“I was just really focusing on hitting fairways and the center of greens, and I know my putter would really help me out.”

Even better for Notre Dame Prep is that Staskowski has one more year left and a chance to become the fourth Lower Peninsula player to win three individual Finals championships.

“The girl I beat last year in the playoff (Spring Lake’s Anna Kramer), she had won states the year before,” Staskowski said. “It was in my mind that you still have to play hard because anyone can come up.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Macomb Lutheran North stands with an MHSAA championship trophy for the second season in a row. (Middle) Grand Rapids South Christian finished runner-up Saturday. (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.)