Headed Toward A History-Making Finish

June 12, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Nine Grandville Calvin Christian seniors faced their final high school season this spring, and with it exciting possibilities.

Their team had won four straight league titles and looked good for a fifth. The Squires also had moved  into a different MHSAA division, with new playoff opponents and new championship opportunities.

It would've been easy to look far ahead. But those seniors knew better than to look past the first steps that have brought them to the season's final week for the second time in school history.

Calvin Christian knocked out two ranked teams in last week’s Regional – first No. 8 St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic 7-0 and then No. 2 Kalamazoo Christian 7-2. At No. 4, the Squires are the highest-ranked team left in Division 4 with only two more wins needed for a first MHSAA championship.

“We’ve known from the beginning that something special could be in order. Not in terms of advancing far in the tournament, but in having a capable team and taking every opportunity to play together,” Calvin Christian coach Tim TerHaar said. “What these seniors have done, they haven’t been consumed with a tournament run all season. They’re focused on going out and enjoying playing with each other.”

The Squires (23-2-1) can earn one more game together by defeating Muskegon Western Michigan Christian in Wednesday’s Semifinal at East Kentwood High School. Calvin Christian has never advanced to an MHSAA Final; this is the second time the Squires have made it this far, matching their Division 4 run in 2000. (Click for all Semifinal pairings.)

Don’t assume this run has been a product of merely moving into Division 4 (the team also played in Division 4 during TerHaar’s first two years, 2001 and 2002). Calvin Christian has won its league in 11 of TerHaar’s 12 seasons – although the Squires then frequently ran into six-time Division 3 champion Hudsonville Unity Christian or Grand Rapids South Christian during the tournament.

But the Division 4 road is tough as well, with obstacles like four-time MHSAA champion Kalamazoo Christian, which Calvin Christian lost to 2-1 after a 6-0 start this spring. The Squires were missing one of their best scorers for that game, but also had trouble capitalizing on offensive opportunities that did present themselves.

“Having played them and lost to them was a huge motivating factor for all of us,” TerHaar said. “In some ways, it could’ve been a blessing.”

Seniors Katie Klunder, Jenny Holsem, Riley Gortsema and Morgan Noordyke have played on the varsity all four seasons and bring a 73-14-5 career record into this week.

Klunder – who has signed with reigning Division II national runner-up Grand Valley State – has scored 51 goals this spring, tied for sixth in the MHSAA record book for one season. Her 75 points is third. The team has outscored its postseason opponents 36-2 and put a ball in net during the first five minutes of all five playoff games.

The team’s defense has been similarly record-setting. Calvin Christian has 21 shutouts – including 20 by senior goalkeeper Lydia VerStrate, with that total tied for third in the MHSAA record book for one season. In front of her are seniors Gortsema and Noordyke and freshman Morgan Buursma, and a strong midfield led in part by Holsem.

The Kalamazoo Christian loss taught them and their teammates a lesson about the importance of mental sharpness. And that was evident in the rematch Thursday, when the Squires immediately brought the attack.

“I think it speaks to the fact that we have nine seniors, and this is their chance – their last chance, really,” TerHaar said. “I’m pleased that haven’t taken anything for granted. They’ve made the most of every opportunity.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Calvin Christian senior Jenny Holsem (6) deflects the ball during Thursday’s Regional Final against Kalamazoo Christian. (Middle) Squires coach Tim TerHaar presents the trophy to his team after the 7-2 win over the Comets. (Photos courtesy of Calvin Christian soccer.)

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.)