Performance: Eisenhower's Ariel Chang

September 20, 2019

Ariel Chang
Utica Eisenhower junior – Golf

The Eagles’ ace shot an even-par 72 on Sept. 11 at Cherry Creek Golf Club in Shelby Township to win her third Macomb County Tournament championship. Chang – also a two-time MHSAA Finals placer – finished eight strokes ahead of the field and led Eisenhower to its second straight county team title, earning the MHSAA “Performance of the Week.”

Chang is averaging 34.8 strokes per nine-hole match this season – down nearly a full stroke from a year ago – and 71.7 strokes in tournament play, an improvement for more than 1.5 strokes per event. She tied for sixth at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final as a freshmen and finished third in 2018 behind two seniors, leading Eisenhower to 13th and then 10th-place finishes, respectively. Chang made the Division 1 all-state first team as a freshman and the all-state Dream Team (made up of the best from all divisions) as a sophomore, and she’s won all three tournaments she’s played this fall.

Eisenhower coach Jerry Griesbeck first met Chang when she was in fifth grade, noticing her impressive swing and ball-striking even then. She has a special connection to her favorite golfer to follow – the LPGA’s Megan Khang is a distant cousin and earlier this month played on the U.S. team that finished runner-up for the Solheim Cup. Chang carries a 3.71 grade-point average and is considering studying business or dentistry after she’s completed high school. She has plenty of time to decide, of course, and also has big aspirations on the course before graduating – she’s shooting to become Eisenhower’s first MHSAA Finals individual girls golf champion and aiming to help the Eagles to their first team title.

Coach Jerry Griesbeck said: “While everyone marvels Ariel’s talents on the course, there is another side of her that her teammates admire most. A trait she learned from her family: Never put herself first.  Ariel is one of the biggest cheerleaders on the team, always willing to help a teammate who needs a lift, (offer) a kind word of encouragement to another, or a golf lesson to a couple of others free of charge.”   

Performance Point: “This time around I didn’t play that great because the last two times I won I shot a 69 and 72,” Chang said. “So for me, my standards, when I play I don’t really play against other people. I play against myself, and I knew that day that I could do better than that. I left a lot of putts out there. But overall at the end of the day I still won, so I can’t be mad at myself. I enjoyed it, especially that my team won also.”

Finals in my sights: “I’ve been practicing really hard, because I got so close the past two years. So I’m going to try to win states – that’s my ultimate goal for this year. I think I’ve worked a lot on my mental (game), and it’s gotten a lot better. Like when I make a bad shot, I think about my next shot and I don’t think about my bad shot before. I play a lot of tournaments, so my mental game, it gets better as I go through the experience. I want the pressure … so I can do better.”

Eagles ready to soar: “I feel like we even got better from last year. Because I know how hard my girls push and that they really, really push themselves, so they know they can do so much better. We’ve been practicing really hard – they voluntarily practice themselves, even outside of the high school practices. They have more confidence in themselves this year. I think that’s why they’re shooting better.”

Epic driving: “My driver this year, it’s been going farther. And whenever I hit … there was this one time, I was playing with this girl and she’s like, ‘Every time you hit your driver, I feel like it goes in slow motion.’ I did get a new driver. I got the (Callaway) Epic Flash. I had the Epic before, the regular one, and I got the new one – I’ve just always loved the Epic.”

Seeing me in Megan: “When she sets up her shot, she’s all focused. But when the shot is done with, she relaxes a bit and she’s more goofy. But when it’s your turn, you get down to business and you focus on your shot. … I’m so proud of her. She’s gotten a long way.”

– Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Past honorees

Sept. 12: Jordyn Shipps, DeWitt swimming - Report

PHOTOS: (Top) Utica Eisenhower's Ariel Chang watches one of her shots during the Macomb County Tournament on Sept. 11. (Middle) Chang lines up a putt on the way to winning the championship for the third time. (Photos courtesy of C&G Newspapers.)

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.)