Plymouth Celebrates School's First Girls Title
October 20, 2012
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Kelsey Murphy knew Saturday afternoon who she’d call first after the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final – her grandmother Erma Murphy, who introduced her to golf when she was 12.
The Plymouth senior just wasn’t sure which bit of history-making news she would share first. She might start with how the top-ranked Wildcats won their first MHSAA girls team title. Or lead off with how she battled through wind and rain to edge Utica’s Taylor Clark by a stroke for the individual title.
Most likely, it was all going to come out in one long sentence. There's just so much good news to share.
Plymouth – after finishing third in 2011 and coming into this weekend ranked No. 1 – shot a two-round 659 at Michigan State’s Forest Akers East to edge runner-up Farmington Hills Mercy by 11 strokes. Murphy shot a two-day 148, matching Clark’s 75 on Saturday to maintain a one-stroke lead from Friday’s first round.
"I’m extremely proud of my team. We worked so hard this year to get to where we are today,” Murphy said. “It’s the first state championship in Plymouth’s history in any sport, so we’re extremely proud to represent our school this way.”
All five of Plymouth’s players shot 183 or better for the weekend, with senior Sarah Thompson firing a 166 to miss the individual top 10 by five strokes. And the latter statement is all the more impressive considering seven of last season’s 10 were back for this Final.
Murphy had birdies on Nos. 11 and 16 on Saturday. Clark, who improved from tied for sixth last season to finish second, just missed a close putt on the 18th green that would’ve forced a tie-breaker.
“I knew they were going to be close because Taylor is such a great player and so is Tenley (Shield, of Grosse Pointe South, who finished fifth). So I knew we were going to have a shootout today, and we all had to play our best to see who would come out on top,” Murphy said.
Utica as a team was four strokes better than Friday and shot a 672 to finish third.
“I’m proud of where I’ve come in the last four years. But most of all, I’m proud of my team for getting here,” said Clark, who played in Utica’s top spot every year of high school. “This is our best finish in the history of our school, so I think we represented our district and our school well. A top-three finish is great here.”
Plymouth enjoyed the same last season, but wanted more – especially after how the 2011 Final finished up.
The Wildcats were in second place after that first round, but fell to third by the end of the weekend. Murphy led individually with four holes to play, but also finished third.
They also had to adjust to a quick switch right before the start of this season, after coach Chris Moore resigned after taking an assistant principal job. Dan Young, a teacher with Moore at Pioneer Middle School in Canton, stepped right in. He hadn’t coached golf before, but has plenty of experience leading teams – he’s coached boys basketball at Westland John Glenn for two decades.
Plymouth shot a 331 on Friday to lead by seven, then carded a 328 to finish the run.
“You can’t replace that (2011) experience. Obviously, we fed off that,” Young said. “We tried to keep things in perspective, tried to stay within ourselves and do our job and lay it all out there. I thought we could come back and play better than (Friday), and I think the girls felt they could play better than (Friday). So that was the goal.
“That (2011) experience grounded us the whole year. It really did.”
Holt junior Pader Her shot two strokes better to finish third individually with a 152. Brighton senior Hannah Pietila shot five strokes better to move up to fourth.
PHOTO: Plymouth's Kelsey Murphy digs a shot out of the sand during Saturday's final round of the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final. (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.
Sluss 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.
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.”
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.)