Gull Lake Returns to State's Elite
June 15, 2013
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
WILLIAMSTON – Can one save change a soccer season?
It certainly can alter a championship game, as junior Maggie Harma and Richland Gull Lake found out Saturday afternoon in Williamston.
Bloomfield Hills Marian fired 27 shots during the double-overtime MHSAA Division 2 Final. Harma, the keeper, had to save 13.
But the shot she stopped 30 seconds into the 100-minute game might’ve saved the Blue Devils’ first championship run since 1992, one they finished with a 1-0 victory over the reigning champion Mustangs.
“If it had gone in, our team would’ve been down the whole game trying to come back,” Harma said. “Because I saved it, it kinda gave us the little push we needed: We are here, we deserve to be here, we’re not here by luck. We’re here because we’re good, and we can win this.”
Gull Lake (21-1-1) was a Finals regular during the 1990s. But the current players were either still figuring out how to run or maybe even how to walk when the Blue Devils played in their most recent championship game in 1999.
Marian’s story is nearly the opposite. The Mustangs (17-3-4) have won five titles over the last 11 seasons, including three of the last five in Division 2.
Gull Lake second-year coach Jeff Corstange was plenty familiar with his program’s previous success, having graduated from the school in 1996.
“That’s one of the things when I came into this coaching role two years ago; I knew what it took to get there,” Corstange said. “These girls were young. They didn’t really know what it was. But I wanted to bring excitement back to Gull Lake.
“The whole community supported us tonight, and they get energy off of that.”
Harma admitted her team was a bit intimidated when Marian first arrived Saturday. But Corstange had emphasized to his players that they deserved to be in the Final, and the numbers said the same.
Gull Lake entered the postseason ranked No. 3, just one spot behind Marian. The Blue Devils gave up only eight goals this season – and including Saturday, not one during the MHSAA tournament.
“It starts with their keeper. She’s a really good keeper. And the four in the back are really good,” Marian coach Barry Brodsky said. “Just for whatever reason, we couldn’t get that last little inch it takes to get it into the goal. I thought we were going to get it the first 30 seconds of the game. Sometimes when you don’t get that goal you think you should, that’s the game right there.”
Gull Lake didn’t get its goal until 3:56 into the first overtime. Sophomore forward Amanda Pavletic, who had 15 goals this season although she wasn’t a starter, found the back of the net and sent the Blue Devils’ supporters into a frenzy.
Like it had in a 1-0 overtime Semifinal win over Spring Lake in the Semifinal, Gull Lake’s defense held strong over the final 16 minutes to secure the win.
“We worked really hard in the preseason, and we knew what we were capable of doing this year,” Corstange said. “All that hard work and determination ... this goes to show we can battle with anybody, being a small school. We welcome the battle. We have a lot of talent out there.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Gull Lake freshman Kenzie Harney (11) battles with a Bloomfield Hills Marian player for possession during Saturday’s Division 2 Final. (Middle) Marian sophomore Kelly Sweeney (11) pushes the ball past the outstretched foot of Gull Lake’s Olivia Sullivan. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
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.
Sluss 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.
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.”
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 DougDonnelly@hotmail.com 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.)