Sisters Shine as Dow Charges to 1st Title

October 15, 2016

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

ALLENDALE – A friendly rivalry between two talented sisters helped the Midland Dow girls golf team accomplish a feat this weekend that was four years in the making.

Senior Stephanie Carras and junior Alexis Carras forged a competitive battle for individual honors and propelled the Chargers to a victory at Saturday’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final at The Meadows at Grand Valley State.

Midland Dow won its first MHSAA girls golf title in school history by firing a two-day total of 645. It defeated runner-up and reigning champion Birmingham Seaholm by a whopping 48 strokes.

Stephanie Carras captured medalist honors with a 139 to outduel her younger sibling by six strokes. Flushing’s Kerrigan Parks was third with a 150.

“It’s a healthy rivalry between us,” said Stephanie Carras, who shot under-par both days with rounds of 69 and 70. “We support each other, and it helps both of us.”

Added Alexis Carras, who shot 76 on Friday before closing with a final round 4-under 69: “We’re always secretly hoping the other one does well too. If we’re close, we start getting on each other. I didn’t know what I was shooting until the last hole when my dad told me. I didn’t know I was beating Steph.”

Both girls tied the school record with their 69s. Stephanie Carras equaled the score of 2009 Finals medalist Kim Dihn earlier in the season and duplicated that number Friday.

“It’s definitely a friendly rivalry between those two, which pushes them and helped us to accomplish as a team what we just did today,” Midland Dow coach Doug Bradford said. “They root for each other, but there is a competitiveness between them. They always want to know where the other one is and how close they are.

“It was a great effort today, and obviously Stephanie and Alexis just played lights out.”

The Chargers had been close in previous seasons with top-5 finishes at the Finals each of the last three seasons.

They finished runner-up a year ago to Birmingham Seaholm, which saw a stretch of three consecutive Division 2 crowns come to an end.     

“We quietly talked about it all year,” Bradford said. “We didn’t come out and talk about it every day, but we talked about the goal and the goal was a state championship. We had three goals. Win league, win regionals and then state.

“Any state championship is wonderful, and it’s what you dream of as a kid. Either to play for one or coach one and to be a part of this is just really fun. The freshmen coming through have been so close, and for them to finish their careers with a state championship is just great.”

The Chargers received contributions from others as well. Junior Giacomina Fabiano and seniors Caroline Szabo and Morgan Dieters also delivered consistent scores.

Szabo said team chemistry was the catalyst in her team’s triumph.

“We’re all such good friends, and it is so cool to do it with people you are close with,” she said. “We want to do well for each other, not just ourselves. This is really amazing because we’ve done a ton of things that this program has never done, but we couldn’t do the one we really wanted. This was our ultimate goal, and it’s really amazing.”

Stephanie Carras, who will play golf at the University of Georgia next season, also had motivation from last year.

She finished runner-up for medalist honors, but saved her best for last with solid putting on the greens.

“It’s incredible, and I’m so excited because I’ve never won as an individual,” Stephanie Carras said. “This is big, and yesterday and today my putting was just going well. I feel like that helped me out here. I had the lead going into today, but my coach told me it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

The Chargers built a commanding 19-stroke lead after the first day.

“We knew we were in good shape, but they still put some pressure on themselves,” Bradford said. “I think they did a great job of finishing, and I’m really proud of them.”

Alexis Carras said she and her teammates took the early advantage in stride and just dedicated themselves to remaining poised.

“Last year was disappointing because we didn’t play well, and we were just really hoping for it this year,” she said. “We just decided to play our games and whatever happens, happens. Just do your best, and that’s what we did. I can’t believe it. This is surreal.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Midland Dow's Stephanie Carras watches one of her shots during Saturday's second round at The Meadows. (Middle) Sister Alexis Carras follows through during her second round. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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.

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 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.)