TC West Edges Packed Field for 1st Title
October 17, 2015
By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half
ALLENDALE – It was extremely close going into Saturday’s final round of the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final, with the only question being which Detroit-area girls golf powerhouse would prevail.
But unranked Traverse City West had other ideas.
Perhaps benefiting from its northerly location during the occasional snow flurries – and definitely benefiting from freshman standout Anika Dy – the Titans stunned the state by nipping Rochester on the fifth player tie-breaker to claim the championship at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University in Allendale.
“My attitude coming in is that I would be ecstatic if we could make the top five,” said sixth-year Traverse City West coach Kristen Nolan. “When we won it, it kind of blew me away.”
Traverse City West won its first-ever MHSAA girls golf championship the old-fashioned way, with all four of its top players improving on their score from Friday’s opening round.
That improvement allowed the Titans, who were in fourth after the opening round, to move past Bloomfield Hills and last year’s runner-up, Lake Orion, and into a tie with tournament favorite and first-day leader Rochester.
The tie-breaker is the combined two-day score of each team’s fifth player, and that’s where TC West junior Grace Warren made her huge contribution, as her rounds of 94 and 99 were enough to give her team the championship.
The leader of the Titans was Dy, a 14-year-old freshman, who was the only player in the field to shoot two rounds in the 70s. Dy’s rounds of 79 and 77 gave her a two-day total of 156, putting her second overall and one shot behind junior medalist Julia Dean of Brighton.
“We are all shocked and these are tears of joy on my face,” said Dy, the freshman leader of a Titans’ top five with no seniors, but also three juniors and one sophomore. “I think it does help that we play in a lot of bad weather; that didn’t bother us too much. I didn’t putt very good at all. If I had made a few more putts, it wouldn’t have come down to a tie-breaker.”
Temperatures were in the mid-40s during Saturday’s final round, but steady winds of 12 mph out of the north (gusting as high as 25 mph), made it feel closer to freezing at times on the par-73 course. Both rounds were dry for the most part, except for a few stray raindrops on Friday and a brief blast of snow showers late in Saturday’s round.
Those conditions produced bloated scores up and down the board, and it was the most northern of the 15 teams which plodded through the difficult conditions the best.
In addition to Dy’s terrific performance in her first MHSAA Final, TC West got solid efforts from juniors Hunter Kehoe (87-80) and Grace Ellul (88-87) and sophomore Madison McCall (97-93).
“It’s not like we came out of nowhere,” said Nolan, the Traverse City West coach and former player at Troy Athens. “We won six tournaments in a row earlier this year, then we took a second, then we won a couple of more. But we’re from up north, so sometimes people don’t hear about us.”
Rochester, which was looking to win its first MHSAA championship since back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009, received consistent performances from its top two players, juniors Veronica Haque (80-80) and Brooke Busse (85-85). Like Traverse City West, Rochester had no seniors in its top five.
TC West and Rochester emerged from a bunched pack in perhaps the closest overall team competition in girls golf finals history, with eight teams within 15 shots. Bloomfield Hills (692) placed third, followed by Troy (695), Novi (696), Saline (697) and Lake Orion and Farmington Hills Mercy (tied at 700).
The photo finishes weren’t confined to the battle for the team title.
Brighton’s Dean shot a remarkable even-par 73 in Saturday’s wintery weather to win individual medalist honors by one shot.
“I started making some putts today,” said Dean, who shot an 82 in Friday’s opening round, making her two-day total of 155 a shot better than TC West’s Dy. “My goal was to try and get every putt two feet past, and a few of them went in.”
The highlights of Dean’s round were birdies on holes 6, 9 and 14.
Rounding out the top five individuals after Dean and Dy were Lake Orion’s Moyea Russell (158), Rochester Hills Stoney Creek’s Lauren Ingle (158), Rochester’s Haque (160) and Saline’s Samantha Kellstrom (160).
PHOTOS: (Top) Traverse City West golfers hold up their championship trophy Saturday at The Meadows. (Middle) Snow began to fall as this Northville golfer lines up a putt. (Click for 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.
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.)