Birch Run junior – Soccer
Shutting down opponents has become the norm for Birch Run and third-year goalkeeper Breckenridge, who had 29 shutouts in goal heading into this season – and has since added 16 more to tie her previous single-season shutout record set in 2015 (she also broke it originally with 13 as a freshman). Birch Run’s 1-0 win over rival Frankenmuth on May 11 was her 11th straight of a since-ended shutout streak and earned her the Michigan National Guard Performance of the Week for May 9-15.
Breckenridge had 12 saves in the win over the Eagles, and to that point Birch Run had outscored its opponents this season 64-1. The Panthers are ranked No. 8 in Division 3 and clinched a second straight Tri-Valley Conference East championship last week with a win over North Branch, after finishing 16-1-3 last year while losing only in their District Final. Birch Run is 17-3 heading into Monday’s game against Otisville-LakeVille.
Kalyn, along with twin sister Kyla and also-junior Madison Enderle, is part of a strong nucleus that should put the team in MHSAA title contention both next month and again next year. Kalyn Breckenridge earned a Division 3 all-state honorable mention last season and also has broken the school’s career shutouts record (formerly 36) this season. She also plays basketball and has played volleyball during her high school career, and carries a 3.5 grade-point average. Although she has another year to decide where, Breckenridge is interested in a career in law enforcement, possibly with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Coach Duane Enderle said: "(Shutouts are) always a combination of the team, but what separates her from other goalkeepers is when it comes down to making those critical saves, she's able to step up and make those saves. A lot of goalkeepers, you see great defenses in front of them and great numbers too. But when it comes down to facing the 1 v. 1 quick striker at the high school level, a lot of times they don't make those saves. She's been solid (for three years) but is even progressing to a higher level; she has a very high ceiling."
Performance Point: “I’ve been able to get some action this year more than I did last year, and I feel I’ve just improved throughout my season. Also, my defense and the rest of the team has (improved), and the shutouts have really been a team effort – me doing my job, and also (them doing) theirs. Beating Frankenmuth was a great setup for us. We wanted to win the TVC again this year, win back to back, so it was a special moment for me and the team.”
Have no fear: Breckenridge has played keeper since she was 10. “I also used to be a catcher in softball. I’ve always been hand-eye coordinated. I’ve never been afraid to throw my body out in front of any ball, even if it’s going 30, 40 miles per hour. I’ve always been known to be fearless.”
Play them all: “I was introduced (to all my sports) at a really young age. My sister and I always have been very into athletics. We would hate not doing anything at all. We’d usually go from one practice to the next, and we played softball too, so we were playing four sports at a time and we absolutely loved it. We’ve always had a love for sports; TV or something like that has not been interesting for us.”
Sisterly bond: “It’s definitely special. I get to share with her how we did in the game. When we get home I’ll tell my sister how great she did, and she’ll tell me how great I did. We can share wins together. We’ve always been super close. We’ve never been the arguing type of twins.”
Serve and protect: “I’d like to be an FBI agent or some type of police detective. I used to always want to serve my country in some way. I always wanted to help people, and I guess that really pushed me to do something. ... My dad, grandpa, all my uncles have served our country in a way, and that’s made me want to step up and do the same thing.”
– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2015-16 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom, or protecting lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2015-16 honorees
May 11: Morgan Beadlescomb, Algonac boys track & field - Read
May 4: Abby Krzywiecki, Farmington Hills Mercy softball - Read
April 27: Mike Mokma, Holland Christian baseball - Read
April 20: Abby Divozzo, Cadillac girls soccer - Read
March 30: Cassius Winston, Detroit U-D Jesuit boys basketball - Read
March 23: Kierra Fletcher, Warren Cousino girls basketball - Read
March 16: Jacob Montague, Grosse Pointe South swimming & diving - Read
March 9: Kyle Tuttle, St. Charles boys bowling - Read
March 2: Brittney Schnicke, Caledonia girls bowling - Read
Feb. 24: Kamari Newman, Detroit East English boys basketball - Read
Feb. 17: Jason Whitens, Powers North Central boys basketball - Read
Feb. 10: Rachel Hogan, Grand Ledge gymnastics - Read
Feb. 3: Nehemiah Mork, Midland Dow swimming & diving - Read
Jan. 27: Mardrekia Cook, Muskegon girls basketball - Read
Jan. 20: Sage Castillo, Hartland wrestling - Read
Jan. 13: Rob Zofchak, Dexter swimming & diving - Read
Jan. 6: Tyler Deming, Caro wrestling – Read
Dec. 15: Jordan Weber, East Jordan boys basketball – Read
Dec. 8: Kaitlyn Geers, Kent City girls basketball – Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Birch Run's Kalyn Breckenridge dives to make a stop against Frankenmuth during a 1-0 shutout on May 11. (Middle) Breckenridge goes into traffic to make another stop. (Photos courtesy of the Frankenmuth athletic department.)
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.)