Ontonagon, Chassell Ace Rise in UPD3

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

June 1, 2018

GLADSTONE — Sometimes it pays for golfers to have short memories.

After struggling in Wednesday’s practice round at Irish Oaks Golf Course, Marli Hietila shook that off in time to earn medalist honors at Thursday’s Upper Peninsula Division 3 Golf Finals.

The Chassell junior shot 88 for her first U.P. title on this warm and humid day, which included a brief downpour. 

“My driver helped me a lot today, and my chipping was good,” she said. “I had a couple rough holes, but it turned out pretty good. The downpour made it exciting. We were just starting a hole when it started pouring. The weather conditions could have been better, although it wasn’t too bad. I would have preferred to have it a little cooler.”

Ontonagon captured its first title in seven years with 433 strokes, followed by Crystal Falls Forest Park at 442, Big Bay de Noc 479, Cedarville 498 and Pickford with 501.

“We knew Forest Park would be one of the frontrunners,” said first-year Ontonagon coach Adam Spaulding. “They have their competition and good facilities in their area. Our girls are real good about helping each other out. They played very well today.”

Last year’s champion, Cedarville sophomore Lily Freel, was runner-up this time at 90. 

“I definitely didn’t play how I thought I would,” said Freel. “My practice round went real well. I know I can play like that, which makes this pretty disappointing. My shots weren’t as solid as I hoped, and I really struggled reading the greens and misjudged distances. My putting also let me down. Golf is so unpredictable. I consistently shot in the low 80s all year, but didn’t do it on the day it really counted.”

Freel was followed by Powers North Central junior Jadie Linder at 95. 

“This was the best I played all year,” said Linder. “My drives went real well, and my putting was better than usual. I didn’t have any expectations coming in and played pretty relaxed. Last year I took sixth in the Finals. I improved a lot from last year.”

Ontonagon’s leader was sophomore Hallie Bobula, who shot 103 and edged Carney-Nadeau eighth-grader Tessa Wagner on a tie-breaker for fourth place.

Also placing in the top 10 individually were Carney-Nadeau senior Breanna Bedgood at 104, Mackinac Island sophomore McKenna Horricks at 105, Ontonagon senior Kinsey Weisinger 106 and Forest Park senior Alina Soha and Rock Mid Peninsula eighth-grader Shaelyn Lampinen both firing 107.

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PHOTOS: (Top) Ontonagon’s Izabelle Lutz executes a chip Thursday at the U.P. Division 3 Golf Finals at Gladstone’s Irish Oaks Golf Course. (Middle) Chassell’s Marli Hietila shot 88 to capture girls medalist honors. (Photos by Mike Mattson.)

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.)