Northville Rallies for 3rd-Straight D1 Win

October 16, 2020

By‌ ‌Jason‌ ‌Schmitt‌ ‌
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING ‌—‌ ‌The rules of golf are pretty simple — for the most part.

But for one brief moment Friday at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Girls Golf Finals, Northville sophomore Samantha Coleman had a mental lapse. And she broke a rule.

After her third shot found the green on the par-4 ninth hole, she walked up onto the green and at the request of a playing partner, she marked her spot and moved her ball out of the putting line. When it was her turn to putt, she failed to move the ball back to its original spot. She was assessed a two-stroke penalty.

“The funniest thing is, as I walked up to the ball and while she told me to move the mark, I thought to myself, ‘Don’t forget to move it back.’ I always do,” Coleman said. “And then I was happy with par because it was a long putt. I was really proud of how I was doing. And to know that (mistake) was how I doubled — because I didn’t move it back — that was really rough.”

The mistake really got to Coleman, who had played her first 12 holes under par. That’s when her coach, Chris Cronin, stepped in.

“That’s really, really tough. And when you get emotional when you’re competing, it’s hard to concentrate and it makes it hard to finish,” Cronin said. “We talked for a long time. I basically walked with her for the last four holes. When Sam is playing, I let her play golf. She’ll normally see me every 3-4 holes. But today, I knew she needed me there to finish. We walked and talked. The one thing I told her was, ‘You’ve got to let your teammates pick you up.’ She’s thinking, ‘Well, what if my two strokes (cost us) and I told her, ‘You can’t worry about that. You’ve got to trust your teammates to pick you up.’  I think that gave her solace and comfort so she could finish the way she did.”

And what she and her teammates did was spectacular. Trailing Rochester Adams by a pair of strokes with five holes to play, Northville rallied to capture its third-straight Division 1 championship at Forest Akers East in East Lansing.

Northville shot 313 to best the Highlanders, who finished nine strokes back with a team score of 322. Grand Blanc was third with a score of 328, followed by Plymouth (330) and Rockford (334) in the top five.

Coleman finished with a 3-over 75 to lead the Mustangs, who became just the ninth program in Lower Peninsula history to win three straight girls golf Finals championships. The last to do so in Division 1 was Grand Blanc (2004-06).

Northville’s depth shined Friday, with just six shots separating its five golfers. Sophomore Avi Gill and junior Haesol Park each carded 79s, while senior Katelyn Tokarz finished with an 80 to round out the team’s scoring.

“If you look at our last two holes, that’s where we opened the gap,” Cronin said. “A lot of birdies on those last two holes. It’s awesome. Plymouth was our equal. They beat us handily a couple times this year. Adams beat us this year. Grand Blanc beat us this year. We knew it was going to be close, and I think that makes this extra special.

“That’s kind of our team’s MO. We’re able to finish strong. The girls really executed today. A good example was our No. 4 golfer, Haesol Park. She started six over after four holes. It was a rough way to start. She finished with a 79 today. That’s somebody hanging in there, grinding it out. All the girls did that. They knew that that’s what it was going to take to win today.”

After a rough start, Rochester Adams made a move and took the lead. 

“I’m proud of every single girl. I mean, the way they played and battle through things,” Adams head coach Jeff Kutschman said. “The conditions were changing. We had sun and no wind for a while. Then it felt like a 25-30 mile an hour wind for a couple holes, cold and cloudy. Then it was back to sunny. The way they battled through the conditions today was outstanding.”

Sophomore Grace Wang paced the Highlanders with a round of 76. Freshman teammate Laura Liu added a 78.

Grand Blanc sophomore Kate Brody was the tournament medalist, shooting a 2-under 70. She was the only player to break par.

“It feels great that all my hard work has paid off,” said Brody, who finished third overall a year ago. “I had to stay focused, stay calm and take my time on my shots. The conditions were rough but I think I did a good job adjusting to it. I have practiced so much, put a lot of work in. I’m just glad that I could come out with the win.”

Utica Eisenhower senior Ariel Chang and Ann Arbor Skyline junior Adie Maki tied for second with a pair of 73s. Plymouth junior Bridget Boczar and East Kentwood freshman Elise Fennell each shot 74 to finish fourth. Traverse City West senior Anci Dy (75), Coleman, Brighton senior Maggie Pietila (75), Ann Arbor Pioneer senior Amaya Melendez (76), Rockford freshman Jessica Jolly (76) and Wang (76) rounded out the top 10.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Northville’s Samantha Coleman follows through on a putt during the Division 1 Final on Friday at Forest Akers East. (Middle) Grand Blanc’s Kate Brody putts during her run to the individual championship. (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 [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.)