By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING – Jack Snow was a longtime fixture with the Flint Powers Catholic golf program – a mainstay who helped build the girls program into one of the best in the state of Michigan.
He wasn’t at Forest Akers East in East Lansing on Saturday as the Chargers captured the Lower Peninsula Division 3 championship. But somewhere from up above he was smiling down as his younger brother, Jim, was leading his team to another MHSAA Finals title.
Jack passed away two summers ago. He started the girls golf program at the school and won three championships during his nearly-20 year tenure. The Chargers’ championship on Saturday was Jim Snow’s third with the program – matching his oldest brother’s total.
“He was the one who got me into the program to begin with, when the boys needed a JV coach,” said Jim, who took over the program from his wife, Michelle, back in 2006. “I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to match (his three championships). He always joked with me, saying, ‘When you get three, come talk to me.’”
Jim won the first two of his titles in back-to-back years (2007-08). Jack won his in 1989 and again in 1993-94. Jack is in the Michigan Coaches’ Hall of Fame.
Snow’s team finished fifth at last year’s Finals, but returned four of five starters this season – so expectations were high for the top-ranked Chargers. Over the weekend that experience overwhelmed the rest of the field. Powers shot a 328 on Friday and followed it up with a 331 on Saturday, good for a two-day total of 659. Those scores were the two best the Chargers have shot this season.
Sophomore Jolie Brochu led the way with her 152, which landed her atop the leaderboard at the end of the tournament, along with Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Danielle Staskowski. The Irish senior bested Brochu in the first hole of the playoff.
Junior Maggie Knight’s 156 was fourth best, while senior Gina Canavesio (176), junior Olivia Canaday and freshman Allie Sexton all contributed to their team’s season-best performances. Canavesio’s 80 on Day 1 was a career-best, while Canaday’s 86 on Saturday was her best round of the year.
“This was a fantastic team effort,” Snow said. “I’ve never been happier for Gina. She played the round of her life on Friday. It really helped us build a solid lead. I’m going to miss her because she was my sidekick out there on the golf course.
“Everybody kind of gelled this week as a team, and it was fantastic.”
The Chargers had a 21-shot lead over Freeland after Friday’s first round. The two teams tied at last week’s Regional tournament, where Powers won the tie-breaker with the fifth golfer’s score. Freeland, led by senior Olivia Pumford’s 163, finished third this weekend. Grand Rapids South Christian shot a 333 on Saturday to slide into second place. Junior Maddie Wieringa (161) and senior Natalie Samdal (166) finished fifth and eighth, respectively, to lead the Sailors.
Detroit Country Day finished fourth (714), and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep tied for fifth (725).
Staskowski won her third consecutive individual title, beating out Brochu in the playoff. Staskowski, who also won in 2016 in a playoff, came from two strokes down after Day 1 to force the playoff with Brochu.
In the playoff, the two golfers returned to the first hole, where Staskowski hit the back of the green with her approach and parred the hole to win it.
By winning her third straight individual title, Staskowski joined some rare company. She became the fifth Lower Peninsula girl to win three Finals championships, joining Traverse City West’s Anika Dy, who won her third straight Division 1 title earlier Saturday, along with Maple City Glen Lake’s Nichole Cox (2014-16), Okemos’ Elle Nichols (2011-13) and Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Kate Loy (1993-95).
Country Day senior Kristina Roberts was third overall with a 154. Marshall’s Karlee Malone was fifth (161), while Wieringa, Pumford, Samdal, Spring Lake’s Hannah Klein (166), Carleton Airport’s Kristen Reed (168), Marysville’s Madeline Blum (168) and Big Rapids’ Hope Thebo (168) rounded out the top 10.
All golfers battled extreme weather conditions over the weekend, particularly on Saturday.
“We’ve probably had worse weather, but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen what we did on Saturday,” said Snow, speaking of the below-40 temperatures and periods of sleet, which halted play on two occasions. “In that weather, to hang in there. The scores that we had were absolutely phenomenal in those conditions.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Flint Powers Catholic freshman Alexandra Sexton tees off during the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals. (Middle) Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Danielle Staskowski sends a drive during Saturday’s second round. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.)