No Denying Timko in Run to 100 Goals

April 9, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The grinding force of Taylor Timko's attacks on the soccer goal comes out in her coach Jim Stachura’s voice as he describes them.

It’s not so much something technical – although the Pontiac Notre Dame Prep senior has plenty of skill – but more a mix of athleticism, vision and drive that sets the all-state midfielder apart from most in Michigan this spring.

“And the more and more she gets denied something she wants,” Stachura said, “the more and more she’ll try it.”

In a word – is “relentless” the right one?

“That was our team word last year,” Timko answered, noting the irony of the question.

“Relentless” can have a negative connotation, meaning strict or harsh. But this is relentless in a good way – determined, unyielding, and at times unstoppable.

On Tuesday, Timko became the 41st player in MHSAA girls soccer history to score 100 goals, netting three in Notre Dame Prep's 6-0 win over Madison Heights Bishop Foley.

She has 13 goals in six games this season, to go with 39 goals as a junior, 29 as a sophomore and 21 as a freshman.

“The best part of soccer is definitely scoring. I think it’s cool that that’s the point of the game,” Timko said. “If you have a shot, I say definitely take it. It’s like anything; if there’s an opportunity there, take it and run with it. It’s kind of a motto, I guess.”

She’s made the most of many as she enters the heart of her final high school spring.

Timko made headlines this fall as the kicker for a Notre Dame Prep football team that finished a solid 8-3 with help from her left leg. She was named Homecoming Queen, accepting the crown in football uniform during halftime of the Fighting Irish’s Sept. 27 game against Detroit Loyola.

She’s also a decorated track standout, as a freshman taking third in the 400 meters and running on the fourth-place 1,600 relay at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final, then running on the third-place 1,600 relay as a sophomore. And she’s a nearly straight-A student, even as AP calculus is making that pursuit a little tougher of late.

But soccer certainly is her best game, and her impressive scoring totals have come against some of the toughest competition in Michigan. Last season’s schedule included the top-two ranked teams in Division 2 – Detroit Catholic League cross-division rivals Livonia Ladywood and Bloomfield Hills Marian – plus another top-10 Division 3 team in Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard and eventual Division 1 champion Troy.

But Timko and classmate Lindsey Klei keyed an offense attack that drove the Irish all the way to the Division 3 championship game – which despite a 1-0 loss to Grand Rapids South Christian made prophetic a conversation Stachura had with a coaching friend as Timko was just about to take off on her 100-goal career four years ago.

“He said, you know, when you get someone who’s going to score 20 goals for you, you’re going to play in a state final,” Stachura recalled. “Just having a goal scorer like that gives you the missing link. We've always had some good players ... but getting the girls to rally around her has been a big key.”

After the 21-goal debut, Stachura thought Timko’s total might fall some the next season because Notre Dame Prep graduated two all-staters including now-Oakland University contributor Katrina Stencel. But Timko scored eight more that spring than the one before, and then upped her total another 10 goals in 2013 – even as the schedule was toughened.  

Many of those goals have come on her go-to move, a fake right and cut to a shot with her left foot. She likes headers too – admitting, a little tongue-in-cheek perhaps, that at 5-foot-7, “I've got hops,” she said.

Timko also has three assists this season and 39 for her career, and should push to end up among the MHSAA career points leaders as well before this spring is done.

“Thinking back to my freshman year, I never had specific goals of what I wanted to accomplish. Just everyday stuff on the field – at practice being the best player type of things,” Timko said. “Even for a particular season, I didn't say I want to score 20 goals this year; it’s more game to game goals.

“It’s such a blessing how far we've been able to come, and the things we've been able to accomplish. I can honestly say I never expected this.”

But she’s played a huge part in – as Stachura said earlier this year – setting a standard both on the field and in her school.

Timko will head to the University of Michigan this fall to play soccer but also because she’s an outstanding and hard-working student. Her childhood aspiration was to become a veterinarian, but she’s leaning now toward something in the medical or kinesiology fields – “somewhere I could help people,” she said.

She’s a member of the National Honor Society, Students Against Destructive Decisions and her school’s Varsity Club, and serves as a student ambassador for Notre Dame Prep and math tutor to classmates.

“She’s somebody both the boys and girls can look up to – the guys give her street cred because she played football, and the girls see a great athlete and a role model,” Notre Dame Prep assistant athletic director Dean Allen said. “Some kids maybe in general get big heads on their shoulders, as stud athletes. But she's really humble."

Football was “inspiring,” allowing Timko as the kicker to observe the intensity she works to bring to the soccer field. She also learned a valuable lesson about pressure – what it takes to come through when, as a football kicker, she had only one shot at the goal and only a few seconds to execute.

Timko is loving serving as soccer captain for a third straight season, especially as she gets to share those duties with classmates Klei, Bella Galloway and Lauren Gunterman.

And that lesson in pressure could pay off big as she and the Irish continue pursuing the one prize they were denied at the end of last season.

Remember what Stachura said about when Timko gets denied?

“Relentless is definitely a way to live,” Timko said. “Everyone faces obstacles, and there are easy solutions too. But you have to keep pushing through.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Taylor Timko moves the ball upfield during last season’s Division 3 Final. (Middle) Timko (22), with her teammates and coach Jim Stachura, pose with the congratulatory sign she received from them after scoring her 100th career goal Tuesday. (Middle photo courtesy of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep High School.)

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.)