Marian Rallies, Achieves Perfection
June 16, 2017
By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half
WILLIAMSTON – Ellie Deconinck couldn’t have seen her high school career come more full circle Friday at Williamston High School.
The last time Bloomfield Hills Marian was in the Division 2 girls soccer championship game in 2014, Deconinck as a freshman scored its lone goal in a 2-1 loss to Richland Gull Lake.
Now a senior who made a return trip with Marian to Williamston for the 2017 title game, Deconinck heard Marian coach Barry Brodsky remind her of that goal as Marian trailed Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 1-0 at halftime.
“We both said, ‘That’s your goal down there,’” Brodsky said.
In her last high school game, it certainly was Deconinck’s goal, as she scored twice during the second half to lift Marian to a 2-1 win and its sixth MHSAA championship since 2003.
This title actually ended a five-year drought that was long by Marian’s standards.
Brodsky also said of those six championships, this was the first time a team of his had rallied in the title game.
“People think that just because you have a lot of talent that you are automatically going to win,” Brodsky said. “It doesn’t work that way. The teams we play have a lot of talent. You have to have some luck with you.”
After Marian dominated the scoring chances and play for most of the half, Forest Hills Northern stunned the Mustangs by taking a 1-0 lead with 15:59 left in the first half on a goal by freshman Addie Brown. She got loose just outside the box and fired a perfect shot that hit the bottom of the crossbar and went in.
Marian finally capitalized on a chance 1:15 into the second half, tying the game on Deconinck’s first goal, blasted home from point-blank range after another scoring chance hit the crossbar.
Deconinck struck again with 20:07 remaining, taking a pass in the middle of the box from freshman teammate Anna Leonard and fighting off a couple of defenders to chip a shot into the net and give Marian a 2-1 lead.
“I thought the first half of the game was some of the best soccer our team played all season,” said Deconinck, one of just six seniors on Marian’s roster. “Going into halftime, the seniors and captains were trying to keep everyone’s heads up. We were really proud of how we were playing. We were a touch off. To come back in the second half and play so well to get our team this victory is unbelievable.”
Marian, which hadn’t given up a goal in the MHSAA Tournament before Brown’s first-half tally for Forest Hills Northern, didn’t allow a serious scoring chance the rest of the way.
The Mustangs finished 24-0, their second unbeaten season in school history. The 2004 championship team went 25-0.
“They are very deep, and with a lot of bodies they can rotate,” Forest Hills Northern coach Daniel Siminski said. “They kind of wore us down a bit, and gaps opened up.”
It was the second straight Finals loss for Forest Hills Northern (20-1-4), which fell in last year’s to Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in a shootout (2-1).
“You can’t get too upset when you go undefeated and your first loss is in the state finals,” Siminski said. “That was a helluva game. They kind of wore us down in the second half. If you are going to lose, you lose to the best team. They played better than us today, and they earned it. They deserve it.”
Click for the full scoring summary.
PHOTOS: (Top) Forest Hills Northern’s Lauren Kozal tries to outrun a Marian player to the ball during Friday’s Division 2 Final. (Middle) Marian keeper Isabel Hayes gathers a shot.
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.)