Preview: Next Wave of Champions
October 15, 2014
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
First-time champions are expected to dominate this weekend’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Finals.
East Kentwood, South Lyon, Spring Lake and Kalamazoo Hackett are ranked first in Divisions 1-4, respectively, by the Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Association. None has won an MHSAA team title.
Three divisions are guaranteed to crown first-time individual champions as well; Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood’s Cordelia Chan is back seeking a repeat in Division 3, but last season’s winners in the other three divisions all graduated.
See below for some details behind the favored teams in each division, plus other individuals who could make runs this weekend. Click for qualifiers and Regional results from all four divisions and Finals results as they are reported.
LP DIVISION 1 at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley
Top-ranked: 1. East Kentwood, 2. Lake Orion, 3. Farmington Hills Mercy
Five teams posted Regional scores of 340 or lower, including the three above and with No. 4 Dearborn posting the lowest of last week at 334 despite playing only four golfers. Plymouth is the reigning back-to-back champion and ranked No. 9 despite four of its top five returning from last season’s winner. Troy and Davison also took turns among the top three this fall, Troy in the top spot for two weeks before moving to No. 5.
East Kentwood: The Falcons are favored to win their first MHSAA team championship with their top four back from last season’s team that finished sixth but only three strokes out of fourth place. Senior Sarah White and junior Mackenzie Keenoy finished first and second, respectively, at the Regional at Blythefield Country Club. White tied for sixth individually at last season’s LP Division 1 Final and also as a sophomore, and was Division 1 runner-up as a freshman individual qualifier.
Lake Orion: The Dragons own one MHSAA team title, from the 2007 spring season, and all five starters this weekend played on last season’s 10th-place finisher. Balance is a strength – juniors Lauren Danielson and Megan Miller were the team's highest Regional placers at Lapeer Country Club, tying for third, but two teammates tied for seventh and all five golfers shot 84-90 as Lake Orion won by 17 strokes.
Farmington Hills Mercy: The 2012 runner-up is seeking its first team title since 2001 after not qualifying for the Finals last season. Senior Erica Heath – a member of that 2012 lineup – did play at the 2013 Final as an individual qualifier and leads a team that stormed back into the final weekend with a 335 to win the Regional at Dunham Hills Golf Course. She and junior Julia Shaw tied for second at the Regional, while all five Mercy players shot 82-88 and finished among the top 12.
Other individuals of note: Last season’s Final runner-up Dearborn senior Elayna Bowser shot a 74 to win the Regional at Sanctuary Lake as her team posted that Division 1-best team score. Plymouth senior Sydney Murphy returns as the reigning champ’s top player after finishing ninth individually last season, and junior Samantha Kellstrom leads Saline after finishing 10th a year ago. Traverse City Central senior Amelia Pezzetti finished fourth in Division 2 in 2013. A handful of others broke 80 at their Regionals; senior Madison Renko with a 78 to follow teammate Bowser for Dearborn, Troy juniors Jennifer Cui (75) and Naomi Kim (79), Ann Arbor Skyline sophomore Jami Laude (79) and Brighton senior Jennica Long (79).
LP DIVISION 2 at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West
Top-ranked: 1. South Lyon, 2. Midland Dow, 3. Birmingham Seaholm.
Seaholm won its third title in nine seasons in 2013, by a stroke over Okemos. With the Chieftains graduating individual champion Elle Nichols in the spring, last season’s third-place Dow and fourth-place South Lyon are expected to move up in the standings and challenge the Maples while both seeking their first MHSAA team championships.
South Lyon: Three starters return from last season’s fourth-place team, including senior Caroline Harding, who tied for eighth individually. She’s one of three sisters among the team’s top five; freshman Elizabeth carded the team’s low score of 83 to win the Regional at Pine View Golf Course, while Caroline was tied for second and junior Priscilla Harding tied with senior teammate Alex Bernas for fourth place overall.
Dow: The Chargers posted the low Regional score in Division 2, best by six strokes, and are keyed by sisters Stephanie and Alexis Carras, after Stephanie finished third at last season’s Final and teamed with now-graduated older sister Kharissa to lead Dow to a third-place team finish. Senior Madison Bowen, junior Alexie Flaminio and sophomore Caroline Szabo also rounded out last season’s lineup, and all five players finished among the top eight at the Regional at Flint Elks Golf Club – Stephanie Carras winning with a 76.
Seaholm: Senior Jamie Greene and juniors Allegra Cunningham and Jordan Michalak also scored at last season’s Final, with Greene tying for eighth among individuals and Cunningham and Michalak both finishing just a stroke outside the top 10. The Maples won their Regional at Edgewood Country Club by 23 strokes, with Michalak finishing first, Cunningham second and Greene fourth.
Other individuals of note: Okemos junior Jessica Kim was the team’s second-lowest scorer at the 2013 Final, where she finished sixth overall. A number of others who played at last season’s Final impressed at Regionals and should contend for a top-10 spot; among a few to consider are Flushing junior Brooke Thomas, Detroit Renaissance junior Nia Little, St. Joseph senior Hannah Grall, Auburn Hills Avondale senior Mackenzie Blomberg and Muskegon Mona Shores senior Rylee George. George was a sophomore on Mona Shores’ 2012 championship team.
LP DIVISION 3 at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers East
Top-ranked: 1. Spring Lake, 2. Detroit Country Day, 3. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood.
Country Day won its first MHSAA girls golf championship in 2013 on a tie-breaker ahead of Cranbrook-Kingswood, which finished runner-up for the second straight season and last won a team title in 2006. But expected to finish ahead of both is Spring Lake, which is seeking its first MHSAA championship but finished third in 2013. Many will be rooting on Grand Rapids South Christian, which posted the third-lowest LP Division 3 Regional score (357) a day after the unexpected death of coach Rod VanDyke (click for more from the Grand Rapids Press). And last season’s Division 4 champion, Grosse Ile, is in Division 3 this weekend with three starters from last season’s title winner.
Spring Lake: The Lakers return four of their five from last season’s Final; sophomore Anna Kramer finished fourth individually in her first MHSAA championship tournament, and senior Ginnie Olszewski was three strokes shy of the top 10. Spring Lake dominated its Regional at Katke Golf Course, finishing 29 strokes ahead of the field with Kramer taking individual honors with a 77. All five players finished among the top 10.
Country Day: The Yellowjackets return three of last season’s top five, and senior Nicole Junn finished three strokes outside the top 10 individuals last season. Country Day finished ahead of No. 9 Warren Regina but second and just a stroke behind Cranbrook-Kingswood at their Regional at The Emerald. Junn was third at the Regional, leading four players who finished among the top seven places while all shooting 87-92.
Cranbrook-Kingswood: Three of the Cranes’ top five from last season also are back, led by individual champion Chan, who added last week’s Regional title to her achievements by shooting a 79. Junior Molly Wiener and senior Gabby Shuert also started at last season’s Final and finished ninth and 10th, respectively, at the Emerald as all five Cranbrook-Kingswood players scored among the top 20.
Other individuals of note: In addition to Chan and Kramer, three more from last season’s Final top 10 will play this weekend – Ada Forest Hills Eastern senior Henna Singh (tied for sixth in 2013), Lake Odessa Lakewood junior Emily Barker (ninth) and Wayland junior Ali Martus (tied for 10th). Carleton Airport sophomore Olivia Reed missed the top 10 last season by two strokes but last week shot an 82 to win the Regional at West Shore Country Club. Regina junior Lucy Cornwell shot an 81 to finish second to Chan at The Emerald.
LP DIVISION 4 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University
Top-ranked: 1. Kalamazoo Hackett, 2. Macomb Lutheran North, 3. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian.
Division 4 was added in the Lower Peninsula six seasons ago, and Grosse Ile and Lansing Catholic have combined to win the first five titles – but neither will be playing at this tournament this weekend. NorthPointe Christian was the runner-up a year ago, finishing two strokes back of Grosse Ile, while Hackett was fifth after finishing second in 2012. No. 6 Flint Powers Catholic and unranked Jackson Lumen Christi are the only teams in the field that have won MHSAA titles in any division or class of girls golf. No. 4 Harbor Springs shot a Division 4-low Regional score of 352, and No. 5 Grand Rapids West Catholic also was impressive at 366.
Hackett: The Fighting Irish return five starters from last season’s Final, where now-junior Lizzie Stull tied for seventh individually. Senior Carrie Radomsky also was on the 2012 team that finished third. Stull finished second at the Regional at Silver Lake Country Club with a 79, and junior Rebecca Radomsky was sixth as all five Hackett players finished among the top 13 places and the team edged No. 5 West Catholic and No. 3 NorthPointe Christian.
Lutheran North: Four of its Regional starters last week helped last year’s Mustangs to an eighth-place finish, and all five finished among the top nine at the Stoney Creek Golf Course Regional. Senior Katie Humphreys was first, sophomore Sydney Martens was second and freshman Serena Nguyen came in third as the team won by 29 strokes.
NorthPointe Christian: Last season’s Final individual runner-up Monica Koert graduated, but NorthPointe is back with three of the golfers who filled last season’s lineup behind her, led by senior Molly Antor – who won the Silver Lake individual championship with a 73. Senior Allison Starr was third at the Regional, and with junior Jessica Zylstra also bring last season’s championship tournament experience to this lineup.
Other individuals of note: Four more of last season’s individual top 10 also will play, topped by 2013 third-placer Nichole Cox (77); the Maple City Glen Lake sophomore last week won the Regional at Mistwood. Farwell senior Bria Colosky was second at that Regional (80) and tied for 10th at last season’s Final, as did Hillsdale Academy junior Madi Reed, the Regional champion last week at Calderone Golf Club. Frankenmuth sophomore Meg Watkins (87) won the Regional at Twin Brooks Golf Course after two playoff holes and coming off a sixth-place Final finish in 2013; she defeated Freeland Tori Argyle in the playoff. Harbor Springs’ Regional-best team score was keyed by an 81 by senior Abbey Detmar, who finished third individually at Mistwood and was her team's second-lowest shooter last season when the Rams finished sixth at the Final.
PHOTO: Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood’s Cordelia Chan attempts to sink a putt on the way to winning last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 individual championship.
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.)