Forest Hills Central Ends Marian Title Streak, Begins Division 2 Reign

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for

June 18, 2022

EAST LANSING – Wearing her black “lucky’’ jacket, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central girls soccer coach Ashley Ludtke celebrated her team’s 2-1 Division 2 championship game victory over Bloomfield Hills Marian on Saturday at DeMartin Stadium.

The Mustangs were seeking their fifth-straight Division 2 title. Instead, the Rangers (20-2-1) ended that streak with their fifth championship and first since winning Division 1 in 2017.

FHC became just the fifth team to hold Marian to fewer than two goals this season, and capped a run during which the Rangers didn’t give up more than one goal in 10 straight games.

“Marian is obviously a top-notched program,’’ Ludtke said. “They have skilled players at every level. We settled into the game, but they definitely were putting some pressure on us. The defense really came together the final part of the season. I was proud of how our backline played too.’’

The Rangers offense was led all season by senior forward Theryn Hallock, daughter of former MSU fullback Ty Hallock, who will attend her father’s school on a basketball scholarship.

Hallock wasted no time making her presence felt Saturday, scoring the first goal on a header at the 35:01 mark to give Central a 1-0 lead. It was her 35th goal of the season.

Forest Hills Central/Marian soccerBoxing out like a power forward, she made the Marian defense account for her throughout the championship. Hallock returned to the soccer field this spring for the first time since middle school after focusing on hoops during her first three years at FHC.

“This was a chance for me to come out and play with my friends,’’ said Hallock. “I’ll miss soccer, but I’m ready to get on the court and play.

“We knew our defense had to be solid. We knew we had to get the ball to our forwards because of their speed. We probably could have scored more, but we got the job done. On my goal I just ran to the box, and I knew Dailey Tucker could get me the ball. I was there, I was ready to head it and I had a lot of confidence.’’

After Hallock’s goal, Marian star Isa Agrusso took less than two minutes to tie the game, fighting through two defenders and scoring her 21st goal of the season.

The lead didn’t last long as senior midfielder Stella Sutton scored on a corner kick at the 31:15 mark to give the Rangers a 2-1 advantage.

“We’ve been working on corner kicks ever since postseason started,’’ said Sutton. “I really just wanted to get in there and capitalize on the opportunity. I got my body in there. It hit my shoulder and it just went in. It determined the game. We knew we couldn’t allow another goal.’’

They didn’t. Mustangs first-year coach Reid Friedrichs, a former Michigan State star, was bothered by the corner kick score.

“It was not how we scripted the beginning,” he said. “It was a very wide-open game, and we looked a little shocked at how fast they could counter. I don’t know if the girls were ready for that kind of speed in a live scenario. We hadn’t given up a goal on the corner since the first game of the year. We’ve scored an average of 1.06 goals on restarts per game. To give up one and not score one is the opposite of what we’ve done all year.’’ 

The Mustangs (17-2) pressed the issue offensively looking for the tying score, but lime green-clad FHC keeper Ava Wilberding was up to the challenge. 

Hallock nearly gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead, but a shot that got through came just after the first-half horn sounded.

Forest Hills Central had more chances to take a two-goal lead during the first 20 minutes of the second half, but didn’t convert.

Bloomfield Hills Marian (17-2) was seeking its fifth-straight Division 2 title, but this time for the first time without retired coach Barry Brodsky.

His first Marian championship came in 2003 with co-coach Chris Courage and the opponent Forest Hills Central, with Marian winning 1-0 in overtime.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Forest Hills Central’s Dailey Tucker (24) considers her options Saturday with a Marian player applying pressure. (Middle) The Rangers celebrate their first championship since 2017.

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.)