Unexpected Star Helps TC West Shine

October 21, 2017

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

ALLENDALE – Traverse City West senior Megan Jenkinson had to set down her celebratory slice of Little Caesar’s pizza to do a media interview.

Jenkinson is used to the sister duo of junior Anika Dy and freshman Anci Dy getting most of the attention (and they were certainly outstanding, as usual). But it was back-to-back rounds of 78 from Jenkinson, the Titans’ No. 3 player, which powered TC West on Saturday to its second MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 girls golf championship in the past three years.

“How is that for a happy ending?” asked first-year Titans coach Karl Gagnon, back for his second stint leading the program, as he wiped away tears of joy moments after accepting the championship trophy.

“Meg played her best two rounds of the year in the state finals in her final high school tournament. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Jenkinson’s outstanding play helped Traverse City West (626) to a surprisingly wide, 22-stroke victory over runner-up Brighton (648) in unseasonably warm and dry, but windy, conditions at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University. 

TC West and Brighton shot out of the gate in Friday’s opening round, shooting rounds of 311 and 314, respectively, essentially turning the 18-school tournament into a two-horse race. The storyline going into Saturday was a variation of “Sister Act,” pitting the Dy sisters of Traverse City West against junior Annie Pietila and freshman Maggie Pietila of Brighton.

Anika Dy, the state’s reigning Miss Golf and already a verbal commit to play for the University of Michigan, was absolutely outstanding both days – shooting a 3-under par 69 on Friday and validating it with an even-par 72 on Saturday. Dy’s 141 total was eight strokes better than second place Savannah Haque of Rochester.

The 5-foot-1 Dy, who is certainly not a bomber off the tee, used her masterful course management skills and incredible putting to win Finals medalist honors at The Meadows for the second time. Dy chipped in on the final hole to take medalist honors when TC West won the first girls golf state title in school history on the GVSU course in 2015.

“I feel like this course is built for me,” said Dy, who is planning to take some time off from golf after a hectic summer and fall schedule. “I really didn’t hit it well at all, especially today, but I had some clutch putts, a lot of them for pars. My putting definitely pulled me through.”

Anci Dy, a 14-year-old who made it all the way to the quarterfinals of the Michigan Women’s Amateur in July (before losing to her sister, 2 and 1), finished sixth overall with rounds of 78-76-154. Jenkinson gave the Titans three players in the Top 10 with 78-78-156, good for ninth place.

It was ironic that the Division 1 Finals were held the farthest west of the four MHSAA championship tournaments, as nine of the top 10-ranked teams in the final Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Association state poll hailed from the east side of the state. TC West, which entered the Finals ranked fifth, was the only ranked team from either western or northern Michigan.

“We had to represent,” Anika Dy said with a laugh. “There are so many good teams, but we knew that if we played smart that we had a good chance to win it.”

Gagnon, a longtime teacher at Lake City High School who actually started the boys and girls golf programs at Traverse City West before stepping down because of the distance and time commitments, is now retired from teaching and decided to get back into coaching. He thanked his son and assistant coach Greg Gagnon, along with Bay Meadows Golf Course professional Scott Wilson, the swing coach for many of the Titans’ players.

Senior Maddy McCall and junior Jillian Ellul also both figured into the scoring for TC West. The Titans used McCall’s 86 on Friday and Ellul’s 89 on Saturday to complete the total team effort.

Annie Pietila, following in the footsteps of her two older sisters, Emmie and Hannah, who both played Division I college golf at Tennessee, shot rounds of 75 and 80 to lead Brighton to second place. Saline (649) finished one shot behind Brighton for third, followed by Northville (664) and Plymouth (669).

Catherine Loftus shot consecutive rounds of 75 to finish third overall for Saline, which entered the Finals at No. 1 in the MIGCA rankings and was the only team at the Division 1 Finals that featured five seniors. Bloomfield Hills junior Mikaela Schulz (152) placed fourth, and Lapeer senior Brooke Gibbons (153) took fifth.

The Dy sisters, who gained much attention this summer with their outstanding play in the Michigan Woman’s Amateur that culminated with their epic match in the quarterfinals, were quick to deflect credit for this weekend’s championship to Jenkinson.

Jenkinson, who was the No. 6 player for the Titans as a sophomore in 2015, started off this year’s Finals tournament by topping her first drive “about 30 yards.” But she ended it by nailing a long par putt on her second-to-last hole on Saturday and then nearly jarred her final high school iron shot on her final hole, the par-3 17th.

In between, Jenkinson said she had her best putting tournament of the season, along with a chip-in for birdie and three straight birdies on holes 7, 8 and 9 on Friday.

“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs playing golf, like everyone does, so I really, really wanted to play good in my last tournament,” said Jenkinson, who is undecided about playing college golf. “I think that terrible first drive was a good thing. It kind of woke me up, and I knew it could only get better after that.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Traverse City West’s Anika Dy follows a shot on her way to winning a second MHSAA individual championship. (Middle) Brighton’s Annie Pietila led her team to a runner-up finish at The Meadows. (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 [email protected] 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.)