Preview: Seeking to Join Champions Club

October 14, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A year after winning their first MHSAA girls golf championships, Spring Lake and Kalamazoo Hackett are expected to repeat as low scorers at their respective Finals this weekend.

But if the coaches polls are correct, Midland Dow will be the next to join the first-time title-winners club, and Brighton could jump into the mix for the first time as well.

All four Lower Peninsula Finals will tee off Friday morning and finish Saturday. See below for glances at the favored teams in each division, plus others who could make runs at individual titles as only Maple City Glen Lake junior Nichole Cox is back as a reigning champion. Click for qualifiers and Regional results from all four divisions and Finals results as they are reported, and check back Saturday evening for coverage of all four tournaments. 

LP Division 1 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University

Top-ranked: 1. Rochester, 2. Lake Orion, 3. Brighton.

Rochester is a favorite to add its first MHSAA title since winning back-to-back in 2008 and 2009, while Lake Orion last won in spring 2007 but was runner-up last season and Brighton is seeking its first championship. Plymouth, the winner in 2012 and 2013, saw its reign end a year ago but enters this weekend ranked No. 7 and shot a 320 in winning its Regional. Watch out for sixth-ranked Troy, which put three players in the 70s in shooting 309 to also win last week.

Rochester – The Falcons won their Regional at Davison Country Club with a score of 317, 16 strokes better than Lake Orion and with three individuals among the top six finishers. Juniors Veronica Haque and Erika Yang tied for third at 74 and junior Brooke Busse tied for sixth at 80; Haque was fifth at last season’s Final as an individual qualifier after the team missed making the tournament by two strokes.

Lake Orion – Although the Dragons finished second at the Regional, they do bring back three players from last season’s Final runner-up. Junior Moyea Russell was eighth individually in 2014 and tied for 10th at last week’s Regional, while senior Lauren Danielson was fifth last week at 76. Those two and senior Megan Miller also played on the team that finished 10th at the 2013 Final.

Brighton – The Bulldogs also shot 317 to win their Regional, at Hartland Glen, after missing the Final as a team last season. Junior Julia Dean, playing her first season of high school golf, won the individual regional championship with a 71 and was joined by freshman Annie Pietilla and sophomore Heather Fortushniak, who tied for 10th, while all five players finished among the top 23.

Other individuals of note: Seven of last year’s top 11 (who finished among the top 10 with ties) are back this weekend, led by third-place Lauren Ingle of Rochester Hills Stoney Creek. She won the Regional at Davison by a stroke at 72 over Cardinals junior Kamryn Johnston. The top four at the Regional at Fox Hills in Plymouth were Plymouth senior Katie Chipman at 69, Ann Arbor Skyline junior Jamie Laude at 74 and Saline senior Samantha Kellstrom and Ann Arbor Pioneer sophomore Katie-Mina Lee both at 76 – Laude tied for ninth at last season’s Final and Kellstrom was sixth. Senior Jennifer Cui, also a ninth-place finisher in 2014, led Troy’s incredible team effort with a winning 73 at Twin Lakes. East Kentwood senior Mackenzie Keenoy will be the lone representative of the reigning team champion after finishing second with a 75 at Broadoor Golf Course in Caledonia, where Traverse City West freshman Anika Dy went low with a 70. Total, 25 players broke 80 in LP Division 1 Regionals.

LP Division 2 at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley

Top-ranked: 1. Midland Dow, 2. Birmingham Seaholm, 3. Okemos.

Midland Dow has been ranked No. 1 in this division all season as it has pursued its first MHSAA championship after finishing fifth a year ago. But reigning champion Seaholm has been ranked No. 2 all season after winning last year’s title by an incredible 37 strokes. Okemos remains in the mix as well after finishing fourth last season; the Chiefs have been ranked no lower than No. 4 this fall and also are seeking a first championship.

Midland Dow – The top three from last season’s Finals lineup are back this weekend, led by fourth-place individual finisher Stephanie Carras. The junior won the Regional at The Emerald in St. Johns in a playoff after shooting a 74, while sophomore Alexis Carras was fifth and senior Alexie Flaminio was seventh. The team won the Regional title over No. 5 Flushing thanks to a fifth-score tie-breaker after both shot 340.

Seaholm – The Maples also have three back from last season’s Finals lineup and won their Regional at Heather Highlands in Holly by 16 strokes with a 328. Seniors Allegra Cunningham and Jordan Michalak were second and third, respectively, at the Regional, after finishing second and tied for seventh at last season’s Final. All five Seaholm golfers finished among the top 11 and shot at least 87 last week.

Okemos – The Chiefs also shot 340 to win their Regional, by 15 strokes, at Island Hills in Centreville. Four golfers from last season’s Final are back, and all four finished among the top 11 individuals at the Regional – senior Jessica Kim was third at 78, while senior Macy Dahnke was eighth, senior Kaylie Anderson was 10th and junior Lauren Kim was 11th.  Jessica Kim and Dahnke also played on the 2013 team that finished only a stroke behind champion Seaholm.

Other individuals of note: In addition to the three mentioned above, Flushing junior Kerrigan Parks (ninth) and South Lyon senior Priscilla Harding (tied for 10th) are back from last season’s top 10; Parks played Carras in the playoff last week at The Emerald, while Harding and sophomore sister Elizabeth tied for second at Pine View in Ypsilanti, two strokes behind Detroit Renaissance senior Nia Little. Muskegon Reeths-Puffer freshman Karina VanDuinen carried her team to within two strokes of qualifying while winning the individual Regional title at Thornapple Pointe in Grand Rapids by 11 strokes with a 71. Grosse Pointe North senior Liz Gallagher shot a 75 to edge the Seaholm seniors in Holly.

Division 3 at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West

Top-ranked: 1. Spring Lake, 2. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 3. Goodrich.

The Lakers and longtime coach George Bitner celebrated their first MHSAA championship in 2014 and are favored to repeat. But providing the main obstacle again should be Cranbrook Kingswood, runner-up the last three seasons and seeking its first title since 2006. Goodrich didn’t have a team as of two seasons ago but has quickly joined the elite.

Spring Lake – Four of the team’s top five from last season, including individual runner-up Anna Kramer, will pace the lineup again this weekend after the team won last year’s Final by 18 strokes. Spring Lake won its Regional by 43 strokes with a 332 at Ada’s Egypt Valley, with junior Madelyn Nelson finishing first, senior Kayla Krueger second, junior Kramer tying for fourth and senior Emma Conroy 11th.

Cranbrook Kingswood – The Cranes graduated two-time individual champion Cordelia Chan but hope to break through for another title with three more back from last season’s team. They played well under pressure last week, winning the Regional at Holly Meadows in Capac by two strokes over Goodrich, shooting an impressive 328. This season’s returnees all finished among the top seven at the Regional – sophomore Katie Cao was third, senior Molly Wiener tied for fourth and sophomore Carmen Chan was seventh.

Goodrich – Sisters Taylor Harding and Sydni Harding tied for first at Holly Meadows (Taylor won in a playoff) and all five players finished among the top 24. Taylor Harding did make the Final last season and finished eighth, and is one of three seniors among the top five with Sydni Harding a junior.

Other individuals of note: The individual race should be intense, with seven of last year’s top 10 returning and seven players total breaking 80 at last week’s Regionals. Lake Odessa Lakewood senior Emily Barker was third at last season’s Final and shot the low Regional score in LPD3, a 73. Carleton Airport junior Olivia Reed and Warren Regina senior Kendall Graves were among four players who tied for fourth last year, and Ada Forest Hills Eastern junior Megan Skoog and Wayland senior Ali Martus followed Harding in ninth and 10th, respectively, in 2014. Detroit Country Day junior Mallika Brar finished a stroke ahead of Reed to win the Regional at Monroe Country Club, while Grand Rapids South Christian senior Nicole Hoekwater won the Regional at HawksHead in South Haven, where Holland Christian senior Abby Karsten was second and Martus was third.

LP Division 4 at Forest Akers East

Top-ranked: 1. Kalamazoo Hackett, 2. Livonia Ladywood, 3. Macomb Lutheran North.

Hackett last season became the first team not Grosse Ile or Lansing Catholic to win an LP Division 4 title in the division’s six-year history, finishing 33 strokes ahead of the field. Lutheran North was third and Ladywood was seventh, although the latter was LP Division 2 runner-up as recently as spring 2007.

Kalamazoo Hackett – Three of Hackett’s top five are back to lead the repeat attempt, including senior Elizabeth Stull, who tied for ninth individually last season. The Fighting Irish have been ranked No. 1 all fall and shot 324 to win the Regional at Eastern Hills in Kalamazoo by 38 strokes. Stull won the individual regional title, with junior Naomi Keyte second and senior Becca Radomsky fifth – both also started with Stull at last season’s Final. All five Hackett players were among the top 12 at the Regional.

Ladywood – The Blazers also shot an impressive regional score, winning at Huron Meadows in Brighton with a 327 that outpaced Lutheran North by 13 strokes. They should be poised to make a run at Hackett loaded with experience, as last season’s top four finishers at the Final all are back. Senior Carley Hall won the Regional with a 77, while junior Lydia Cranmer and sophomore Gabriella Scopone tied for third and junior Jordyn Rioux was sixth.

Lutheran North – The Mustangs have been ranked at least No. 3 all season and spent the first half at No. 2 led by three returnees from last season’s Final. Sophomore Serena Nguyen tied for seventh in 2014 and was fifth at Huron Meadows last week as all five players on her team finished among the top nine. Junior Sydney Martens was second, junior Madison Mohr seventh, freshman Kaity Rittner eighth and senior Grace McKelvey tied for ninth. Martens and McKelvey also played in last year’s Final.

Other individuals of note: Maple City Glen Lake junior Nichole Cox is one of the state’s top players regardless of division and is seeking her second straight LP Division 4 title. Frankenmuth boasts a pair of top-10 finishers from a year ago – senior Shayna Schneider was fourth and junior Megan Watkins was sixth. Manistee senior Fallon Gates finished only a stroke behind Cox with a 75 at their Regional at Grayling Country Club, while Watkins and Schneider were first and second at Glenbrier in Perry.  

PHOTO: Lakewood’s Emily Barker watches one of her shots on the way to winning last week’s Regional at Centennial Acres in Sunfield. (Click for more from 

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.)