HYDE — The Cedarville girls golf team won the Upper Peninsula Division 3 championship last season, and DeTour took the top honor in 2017.
So it was only logical that the first-year cooperative program comprised of two schools would be a formidable favorite Thursday at Highland Golf Club.
True to expectation, Cedarville/DeTour fired a 420 to win by 43 strokes.
“I think we have a pretty good team,” said Islanders coach Jeff Autore. “We were defending champions from last year, and the girls played well all year. They worked and practiced hard.
“We’ve done well, and it started with the boys years ago. We’ve always had a good golf program. Once you get a tradition going, it draws players to your program. We also have a good junior high program. We have 14 kids there, too.”
The Ontonagon girls took home the runner-up trophy, with Cooks Big Bay de Noc third. Ontonagon is a regular among the top two Finals finishers, most recently earning championships in 2018 and 2019.
“We’re very pleased with how everything went,” said Ontonagon coach Brady Guilbault. “We knew the Cedarville/DeTour girls would be tough.
“It’s a short season up here. We were waiting for the snow to melt and cold weather to go away. It was hard to get on the course. We were hitting a lot of foam balls in the school.”
Islanders senior Zoe Autore repeated as medalist, shooting a 99 and edging North Central senior Sarah Snyder by a single stroke. Cedarville/DeTour’s Lily Plowman took third with 104.
“Last year there was no pressure,” said Zoe Autore, who plans to continue her golf career at Albion College. “This year there was more pressure. It got kind of nerve-wracking at times. My drives were a little better today, but the course was wet and muddy. It probably wasn’t the way they wanted it to be. I didn’t get any roll (with the ball) – although it worked out good overall.”
This marked the first full round all year for Snyder, who played with a torn right ACL and will attend Northwest Wisconsin Technical School in Green Bay this fall.
“I just tried my best,” she said. “Even though this my first time golfing a full round this year, I didn’t let that affect me. I just tried to focus on my game and keeping the ball straight.”
Taylor Williams finished fourth individually, and Hayley Kohlman was sixth to round out
Cedarville/DeTour’s scoring. Madyson Pantti finished fifth to lead three top-10 individuals for runner-up Ontonagon. Macy Peterson was eighth individually as low scorer for Big Bay.
PHOTOS (Top) Cedarville/DeTour's Zoe Autore sends an approach during Thursday’s UPD3 Final at Highland Golf Club. (Middle) The Islanders hold up their championship trophy after winning by 43 strokes. (Photos by Todd Rose.)
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.)