Russell Takes Lake Orion Under Her Wing

September 14, 2016

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

LAKE ORION – As someone who is an aspiring broadcast filmer/producer, Moyea Russell is always looking for a great story to tell with a video camera.

For classes during her time at Lake Orion High School, she frequently has been on the sideline at football games with a camera, videotaping the grunts, popping of pads and exuberant celebrations after touchdowns are scored.

While there have been hours of filming done and projects undertaken, Russell said she doesn’t have a favorite one to describe yet.

“I haven’t really developed it that much where I have a favorite,” Russell said. “Hopefully this year I will get a favorite.”

There probably couldn’t be a more perfect subject for Russell to chronicle with a video project than herself.

It would be appropriate given that Russell has been one of the state’s top golfers the past three years and will graduate next summer as the most decorated female golfer in Lake Orion history.

Russell also has a great story to tell off the course because of a family situation at home that is the definition of unique, although beyond rock solid at the same time.

Mom x 2

Russell has grown up in Lake Orion with two moms in the house, one being her biological mother, ImSoon, and ImSoon’s sister, Kyoneyi, who is Moyea’s biological aunt and adoptive mother. Moyea was born in Japan. But when Moyea was six months old, Kyoneyi and her American husband, Tony, agreed to adopt her and she was brought to Michigan. ImSoon later joined the family in the U.S.

Tony grew up in Kentucky and has a drawl that is as southern as country music. He has raised Moyea like she has been a daughter, not a biological niece, and Moyea obviously refers to him as “Dad.”

He has been to just about all of her summer tournaments and major high school events on the golf course and is her self-described “agent” in golf, although in a good way. Tony drove Moyea to all her events before she got her driver’s license, helps Moyea update her junior golf profile, flew with her to out-of-state junior tournaments as far away as California and has tried to connect with college coaches the past couple of years during summer events.

Before Moyea’s freshman year at Lake Orion, Tony made sure to introduce her to varsity coach Monty Gallaher and essentially alert the returning players that a talented freshman was coming in to infuse some life into a program that had been dormant in the years following an MHSAA championship in 2007.

Tony has worked in robotics and met Kyoneyi while they both worked for the same company (Kyoneyi as a translator) in Korea for a time period, and they ended up getting married in Korea before moving permanently to the United States in 1994.

Moyea’s biological father lives in Japan and she is friendly with him, talking to him a couple of times a month. She visited him in Japan when she was 14 years old, and Moyea said he plans on flying to Michigan to be a part of her graduation festivities once her senior year ends next May.

During school, whenever Moyea hears of a classmate who has had a clash with their mothers, she can just kind of laugh and jokingly say, “Tell me about it,” given she has two mothers in the house.

With all sincerity though, Moyea said the situation has worked out beautifully.

“They are basically like a tag-team, so when one mom has an opinion then the other one has the same opinion, so I’ll rely on my Dad,” Russell said facetiously. “But I like it because I get double the love, which is always good for a kid.”

Leaving a legacy

As rare as Russell’s home situation might be, it has nothing on her extraordinary accomplishments on the course and the uncommon turnaround she’s led on her high school team.  

Before arriving at Lake Orion, the Dragons had gone years without winning any dual matches since their Lower Peninsula Division 1 title season in spring 2007 and were lucky to avoid finishing last at tournaments.

“In eighth grade, she was going to be the best player on our team,” Gallaher said. “I knew it was going to be promising. The work ethic that the rest of the team got out of it, you can’t measure. She brought that competitive edge to the team.”

During Russell’s first three seasons, Lake Orion qualified for the MHSAA Finals each time, finished as the Division 1 runner-up her sophomore season and won the last two Oakland County titles.

Individually, Russell was the leader after the first day of the MHSAA tournament last year before finishing in a tie for third, and last year won the Oakland County title at Pontiac Country Club with a 68, the lowest score ever at the tournament for a female.

Winning the Oakland County title was no small feat, given two of the state’s other top golfers who also have been impact players since they were freshmen – Veronica Haque of Rochester and Lauren Ingle of Stoney Creek – were in the field.

As a sophomore, Russell was named first team all-state with a 79-stroke tournament average and a 39 average in duals, numbers she bettered last year as a junior.

Named to the all-state Super Team by the Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Association, Russell had a 76.4 tournament average and finished among the top 10 in all 11 tournaments in which she competed.

Gallaher said the strength of Russell’s game is her unmatched power off of the tee.

“Her strength is still driving the ball,” Gallaher said. “She hits the ball 250 (yards) and sometimes 260. She is fairly straight. Most of the golf courses we are playing, she is playing pitching wedges and in. Other girls are hitting longer irons or woods into par-4s. That’s the advantage she has.”

Russell didn’t take up the game until she was 10 years old, but took such a liking to it that in a short time she has worked to become good enough to compete at summer tournaments and become the holder of “all” school records at Lake Orion, according to Gallaher.

“We never pushed her into golf, and she has enjoyed the game,” Tony Russell said. “I still remember watching her beat the club in the ground at the driving range while crying because it wasn’t happening. But she didn’t give up. When she worked with her coaches, she would listen to them and that is how she grew to be where she is.”

Team 'mother'

Having a pair of mothers at home has seemed to prepare Russell well for this season, because as a senior she is unquestionably the player everyone on her team looks to for guidance.

With three of Lake Orion’s top five players gone from last year, Russell is more than just the team leader – she’s the team “mother,” for a lack of a better term.

“I always make sure everyone has a ride to practice, make sure everyone gets there on time and make sure everyone knows where they are going, whether it is a tournament, match or practice,” Russell said. “It’s a lot of responsibility, but I enjoy it.”

Next year, Russell will start a college golf career at Southern Illinois University, whose coaches followed her at a tournament in Wisconsin last summer and relayed to Tony how impressed they were with her game.

But what really drew Russell to Southern Illinois was the quality of its broadcast program, and after visiting the campus last summer, the fit was as perfect for golf and academics in person as it seemed from afar.

In college just like in high school, she will get to play golf and pursue great stories to tell visually.

But if Russell’s college career is anything like what she has achieved during high school, there probably won’t be a better story subject than herself.

PHOTOS: (Top) Moyea Russell, third from right, stands with the other top placers after last season's MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University. (Middle) Russell enjoys a lighter moment on the green. (Below) Russell and Lake Orion coach Monty Gallaher show off some of the team's hardware earned during the 2014 season. (Photos courtesy of the Russell family.)

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.)