West Iron Girls Claim 1st Title since 2005

May 30, 2019

By Adam Niemi
Special for Second Half

IRON RIVER – The West Iron County girls teamed up with the boys to defend home turf during the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 Finals on Thursday.

The Wykons girls carded a 433 for team honors. Second-place Mya Grubbs scored the Wykons' best score with a 98 behind leading medalist Payton Dube of Hancock (79).

The West Iron boys' team also won to key a hometown sweep at George Young Resort, located about 10 miles east of Iron River.

The Finals title was the first for the girls since 2005.

"Exceptionally proud of both boys and girls," West Iron County head coach Mark Martini said. "To come back and fight like that is an attribute not everybody has."

Crystal Falls Forest Park (448) took second place, followed by Munising (475) and Bark River-Harris (556).

Hancock, Newberry, Norway and St. Ignace did not field enough golfers for a team score.

West Iron's Anna Malmquist scored a 99, tied for third with St. Ignace's Olivia Champion.

Sarah Premo was Forest Park's leading golfer. She medaled at fifth place with a 104.

"They didn't get in a lot of trouble," Forest Park head coach Patrick Sommers said of his team. "They kept the ball in play, and they played very consistent golf."

Martini said there wasn't a key moment to the Wykons' win. It was just about building and maintaining momentum among the flights.

"It was just kind of switched different times, different holes, different places," he said. "When they came in, I was really amazed they scored that well in the last seven holes."

And, last but not least, Martini said, limiting mistakes is key at a tricky course like Young's. Many tee-offs Thursday ended with the ball echoing off tree trunks among the forest-lined fairways.

"The woods are bad here," Martini said.

Martini, who knew the man for which the course is named, said the millionaire Young designed each hole from inspiration by holes he played on courses around the world.

The No. 3 at Young's, for instance, is a par-3, 138 yards and flanked by bunkers which hug the edge of the green. But the depth perception of the hole from the tee box on a hill well above the green can easily complicate a young golfer's swing.

On Thursday, it did. Like many of the other 17 holes. Thus, Young's is a course that isn't about gaining ground as it is limiting mistakes.

"If you can play off the tee, you're going to help yourself out," Norway head coach Joby Sullivan said. "With the big greens, it really allows for that second shot on the par-4s. The greens are rolling – they're really nice as well."

While Norway didn't qualify for a team score, the Knights were led by Mary Slagle's 121 to finish 13th.

Munising's low scorer was Taylor Downs at 105. Teammates Sydney Curtis (117) and Olivia Koenig (118) took 10th and 11th, respectively.

Priya Rao led Newberry with a 125. Brylea Johnson led Bark River-Harris with a 128.

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PHOTOS: (Top) Hancock's Peyton Dube fires an approach during her championship-winning round Thursday. (Middle) The West Iron County girls and boys title-winning teams. (Photos by Adam Niemi.)

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.)