Standouts Lead Mountaineers to D2 Peak

By John Vrancic
Special for

May 29, 2013

NORWAY — There was no question the individual winner was going to be from Iron Mountain High School at the end of Wednesday's MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 Girls Golf Final.

It was just a matter of which one.

Senior Katelynn Johnson and sophomore Cassie Feira shared the lead after 18 holes with 96 strokes apiece at Oak Crest Golf Course, forcing a sudden-death playoff hole on this sunny and warm day.

Johnson then became the overall winner by edging Feira on the first playoff hole.

"In my 15 years of coaching, that's the first time I've seen this happen," Iron Mountain coach Don Bianco said. "This was very unique. To have this happen was very special. Both girls played well. Katelynn just had better luck getting out of the sand trap during the playoff hole."

The Mountaineers also were crowned team champions for the first time since 2004 with 421 strokes. They were followed by Ironwood with 458 and Manistique at 466.

"The girls really deserve this," Bianco said. "This is a tough group of kids. They're willing to practice in all conditions. Plus, if they have one bad hole, they move on and grind it out."

This marked the first U.P. title for Johnson, who also was crowned Mid-Peninsula Conference champion last week and found being in a playoff with her teammate to be quite interesting and nerve-wracking.

"The pressure was on," said Johnson, who will attend Northern Michigan University this fall to major in nursing. "I couldn't have put the ball on the tee at first. I was so nervous. I was just shaking and everybody was watching. I don't think I have ever been that nervous in my life.

“I had a pretty decent drive, then both of us ended up in a sand trap and it took me two shots to get out. It was a relief to get out of there. After that I wasn't shaking anymore."

Once out of the sand trap, Johnson two-putted for the win.

"It was very nerve-wracking," Feira said. "I felt she should win because she's a senior. This the first time I shot under 100. I was happy to break that. I thought the back nine was easier than the front nine. I ended up in sand traps a lot in the front nine.

“As a team, we practiced a lot last week on chipping and putting, which are things I needed to work on. We also played 18 holes a few times and that helped a lot. The weather was better today, too. We didn't have to wear all the layers we did last week."

Feira's thoughts on playing extra rounds at Oak Crest were similar to Bianco's.

"I think coming here a couple times last week enabled the girls to get more comfortable with the course," he said. "Having a strong senior group also helped."

Alyssa Norback of L'Anse placed third at 97. She was followed by Ironwood senior Korrie Trier at 100 and Norway senior Shelby Matonich at 104.

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PHOTOS: (Top) Iron Mountain's Katelynn Johnson studies a putt during Wednesday's U.P. Division 2 Final; she won the individual championship in a one-hole playoff. (Middle) Norway's Paige Sheski tees off during her round at Oak Crest Golf Course. (Photos by Theresa Proudfit.)

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.)