Bloomfield Hills' Persistence Pays Off with Dream Finish, 1st Championship

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for

June 17, 2022

EAST LANSING – Ava Badallo momentarily made her dream come true by scoring in the first half of Friday's Division 1 soccer championship game at Michigan State’s DeMartin Stadium.

But an offsides penalty nullified what would have been a rare goal against one of the state's stingiest defenses.

Undaunted, the Bloomfield Hills senior forward scored again off a great assist from Brooke Green at 5 minutes, 44 seconds into the second half just the eighth goal Northville had given up all season. The Black Hawks could sense the upset against the unbeaten Mustangs.

Ultimately the game went to a shootout, and it was one more Badallo goal that put Bloomfield Hills up 4-1 and clinched an overall 2-1 victory over the previously-unbeaten Mustangs – earning the Black Hawks' their first Finals championship in girls soccer.

“I think the goal they disallowed was an indirect kick,’’ said Badallo. “We finally got it going and … it was kind of a letdown, but we knew this game was going to be a struggle.

“We finally got those goals. We ended up finishing up in the PK. I don’t even know how to explain the feeling. I’m so just happy Jenica (Opdahl) came up with those big saves. I was able to go in there with a lot of confidence.’’

Opdahl, Bloomfield Hills’ sophomore keeper, said she used a ploy to confuse the Northville shooters.

“I stood to one side leaving one side of the net wide open,’’ she said. “So, I knew they were going to shoot it that way. It worked.’’

Drew Martin, Esther Rosett and Emma Merchant scored during the shootout before Badallo’s clincher. Caroline Meloche scored Northville’s shootout goal.

Bloomfield Hills/Northville soccer“I can’t even believe it,’’ said Merchant, whose goal made it 3-1. “We practice penalty kicks every single day, 15 minutes every practice. To see all our hard work pay off is indescribable.’’

It was a battle of stingy defenses colliding in a struggle that lasted through regulation and overtime.

The second period of overtime saw Bloomfield Hills’ Avary Hall also put the ball into the net, but the goal was called off because of offsides.

Badallo’s second-period score was her 17th goal of the season, and none had been bigger.

“We always talk about the golden minutes,’’ said Black Hawks coach Alan Zakaria. “I was proud of the resilience we showed. You score a goal and have great energy, and it’s disallowed. Our girls responded in a big way. What a great player (Badallo). Our goalkeeper made some great saves. Unbelievable resilience to pull it out.’’

The Mustangs’ Kate Gonzalez got Northville on the board at the 15:27 mark of the second half with a header off an assist from Lauren Moraitis, her 24th, to tie the game at 1-1. 

The Black Hawks (15-2-3) were playing in their first Final and entered the contest having won or tied their last 14 games, while Northville had two runner-up finishes, the most recent in 2014.

Led by nine seniors, the Mustangs hadn’t given up more than one goal in a game all season, posting 16 shutouts on their way to the championship while allowing just seven goals. The Black Hawks posted 11 shutouts this spring.

Bloomfield Hills pressed the action early Friday and had a couple of chances to score but the Mustangs defense, as usual this year, held tough.

Halfway through the first half Northville’s offense started peppering shots at Opdahl, but she was up to the task. Northville played five midfielders in an attempt to put pressure on the Black Hawks’ defense, generating scoring chances.

The Mustangs (18-1-5) had a pair of scoring chances as the second half began to wind down before Gonzalez sent in the equalizer.

“I thought we had some momentum when Kate scored,’’ said Northville coach Jeannine Reddy. “I thought both teams played great. It’s tough to lose that way. It was a good Division 1 state final. Both teams battled. You don’t want that to be your last memory.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Bloomfield Hills celebrates its first Finals championship Friday at DeMartin Stadium. (Middle) The Black Hawks’ Drew Martin (3) controls play with Northville’s Avery Peters (15) in pursuit.

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.)