Calvin Christian Claims 4th Straight Title

June 13, 2015

By Dan Stickradt
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING — Grandville Calvin Christian has joined some elite company.

The top-ranked Squires became just the second girls soccer program to win four straight MHSAA championships by edging Lansing Christian, 2-1, in the MHSAA Division 4 Final at Michigan State University’s DeMartin Stadium.

The record steak is Hudsonville Unity Christian’s six straight championships from 2005-2010. Calvin Christian’s four straight (2012-15) is second, while five more teams have won three straight (Madison Heights Bishop Foley on three occasions).

Calvin Christian also became the 10th program to win four titles total. Bishop Foley’s 12 is the all-time record, while Unity Christian (nine), Birmingham Marian (five), Detroit Country Day (five), Novi (five), Livonia Stevenson (five), Kalamazoo Christian (four), Richland Gull Lake (four) and Troy Athens (four) are also a part of the elite club. 

“It’s an amazing accomplishment and a credit to the seniors every year for leading us,” said Calvin Christian coach Tim TerHaar, who has chalked up an impressive 256-64-20 record spanning 15 seasons. “We didn’t really talk about it (winning four in a row), but I know it was in the backs of their minds. Our seven seniors did a fabulous job leading us all season, keeping us focused and helping us prepare for each game.”

Four seniors on Calvin Christian’s roster — Allison Keizer, Hilary Curry, Emily VanVliet and Morgan Buursma — played on all four championship teams.

“I could never have imagined this,” smiled Curry, a senior midfielder. “You dream of playing in one state championship game and maybe winning one. But four? This is incredible.”

Behind one of the state’s top offenses — Calvin Christian entered Saturday outscoring the opposition 137-11 in 24 games — the Squires didn’t waste anytime in lighting up the scoreboard. 

Calvin Christian scored in just the third minute when Curry collected a through ball from fellow midfielder VanVliet, beat a defender at the top of the box and chipped in a shot from 10 yards out with 37:56 still to play in the first half. 

After being tripped up on the near touch line, VanVliet’s ensuing long, high serve into the penalty box was flicked on by Curry and into the left corner of the goal with 15:22 remaining. That second goal proved to be the game-winner.

“It is special to score two goals in the finals. But to be honest, it is a team effort. It doesn’t matter who scores,” said Curry, who led the Squires with 30 goals, including a combined six tallies in the Semifinal and Final. “In the back of our minds, we knew we could do this — as a team.”

TerHaar said he never felt safe until the waning seconds.

“The game was played at Lansing Christian’s pace. They are very fast and a lot faster than us,” said TerHaar said. “They gave us a battle. I knew it was going to be a close game.”

It was the second Finals loss for the Pilgrims (20-5-0), the other coming in the 2011 Division 4 championship game, a 2-1 setback to the aforementioned Bishop Foley. 

Lansing Christian freshman forward Kasey Jamieson, who entered Saturday with 49 goals, was relatively held in check, although she did ring a shot off the crossbar in the 14th minute and glanced a shot off the outside of the goal post in the 28th minute. 

The Pilgrims, who lost in the MHSAA Semifinals last season to Waterford Our Lady, were resilient and kept hanging around the whole 80 minutes.  

Lansing Christian senior midfielder Rebecca Hull drilled a penalty kick following a hand ball in the box with 6:10 remaining to trim the deficit to one goal. However, the Pilgrims could not net the equalizer down the stretch.

Calvin Christian outshot Lansing Christian 19-10, including 7-5 with shots directly on goal. Keizer made four saves in goal. 

“My biggest worry coming in, to be honest, was that we were going to give up an early goal,” said Lansing Christian coach Joel Vande Kopple. “With the mentality that they are the three-time defending state champions, and if they get an early goal on us our heads could go down and stay there the rest of the game. Thankfully that didn’t happen. We fought hard (the whole game) and if one of those shots went in, who knows what would have happened. I’m still extremely proud of them with the way that they played and the type of season that they had.”

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Calvin Christian’s Morgan Buursma (10) and Lansing Christian’s Isabel Bustamante chase after the ball during the Division 4 Final. (Middle) Calvin Christian celebrates its fourth straight MHSAA title.

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 [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.)