Northville Sets Pace, Cui Takes Next Step

October 19, 2019

By Tom Lang
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Division 1 girls golf is experiencing a youth movement.

Okemos sophomore Allison Cui won the MHSAA Final individual title in that division Saturday by shooting the second of a pair of 73s for a weekend 146 and three-stroke edge over junior Anci Dy of Traverse City West, who shot 76-73-149 for the 36-hole tournament at Forest Akers West on the Michigan State University campus.

Freshman Kate Brody of Grand Blanc was the first-round leader with a 72 but finished at 150 total, good for third place ahead of two golfers at 151 to round out the top five – Utica Eisenhower junior Ariel Chang and Plymouth sophomore Bridget Boczar.

“I’m just absolutely ecstatic,” Cui said. “I never thought that I’d be able to get this. I knew I had potential to, but for it just to all come together and have it work out in the end is amazing. So, to win it this year means a lot to me.”

Last season Okemos played in Division 2 and Cui tied for first place as just a freshman, but succumbed in a playoff to then-senior Kay Zubkus, who is now playing golf at Oakland University.

Cui said this win could be credited to solid putting, and good course management.

“I was able to pretty much two-putt from a lot of spots, even if I was far away from the hole,” she said. “But I also think it was about course management, playing smart and knowing where to hit the ball in good places to miss. I think that really helped lower my score.”

Cui was a participant in Augusta National’s Drive, Chip & Putt national finals in 2017, and Brody is heading to Georgia in April as the most recent winner of the DCP Regional contested at Oakland Hills Country Club.

When comparing her experience at Augusta National with wearing the Finals title medal around her neck, Cui replied: “Honestly, they’re both such different experiences, but this win and doing that are about the same.”

No. 1-ranked Northville won the team title for a second consecutive season, also with the help of youth like junior Katelyn Tokarz and freshman Samantha Coleman. Led by senior captains Sedona Shipka (who tied for ninth overall) and Sufna Gill, the Mustangs pulled away from the field by shooting 322-324-646. Taking second was Grosse Pointe South, with scores of 336-342-678, followed by Plymouth (352-338-690) in third, and Grand Blanc and Okemos each totaling 692.

“All year one of the challenges has been to meet the expectations the girls set for themselves last year, because almost every tournament we went to people told us we were going to be the state champions again. So maintaining our focus throughout the season,” said Northville coach Chris Cronin, pointing to the reasons for his team’s successful repeat run. “And I think the other thing these girls do is they just compete, from start to finish. Whether it was the first tournament of the year to the last tournament of the year, to 9-hole matches, they always compete. So, I think that’s the one thing that’s made us successful.”

Shipka said she took her role as co-captain seriously as the team prepared for another title run.

“For me this year has all been about the team, all about the girls, just making sure they’re happy,” she said. “And making sure they’re where they need to be to be successful.”

Gill, who placed fifth at the Division 1 Final last year, said the team dynamic is what led to a second season of elite success.

“I think we’ve all worked really hard,” Gill added. “We’ve all played together. We win as one, we lose as one and I think we’ve definitely been consistent and we’re just really proud of ourselves and our teammates for carrying us the whole season.”

An additional highlight was enjoyed by Macomb Dakota sophomore Helen Buk, who sank a hole-in-one on the 155-yard 12th hole.

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PHOTOS: (Top) Okemos’ Allison Cui lines up a putt Saturday on the way to winning the Division 1 individual championship at Forest Akers West. (Middle) Northville’s Sedona Shipka also putts Saturday while helping the Mustangs to the team title. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

3-Sport Standout Sluss Gives Lenawee Christian All-State Boost for Every Season

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

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 DougDonnelly@hotmail.com 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.)