Performance: Cadillac's Abby Divozzo

April 21, 2016

Abby Divozzo
Cadillac senior – Soccer

Divozzo was regarded last spring as a top goalkeeper in the northern Lower Peninsula after helping the Vikings to a Big North Conference title with 10 shutouts while giving up only 0.86 goals per game. But an incredible start this spring should put the entire state on notice. The third-year varsity starter has shutouts in all of her team’s first six games and blanked three opponents to lead Cadillac to the Holland Invitational championship Saturday and earn the Michigan National Guard Performance of the Week.

The Vikings beat Holland Black River 2-0, tied Grand Rapids Northview 0-0 and then defeated Holland 2-0, and have increased their start this season to 4-0-2. Divozzo, who has signed to continue her career at Saginaw Valley State University, wasn’t tested much against Black River, but made a key save diving into the top right corner to stop a shot from the 18-yard line and preserve the tie against Northview.

Cadillac graduated only three seniors from last season’s team that finished 14-6-1, so the start this spring hasn’t come as too much of a surprise to the senior keeper. She also was a key contributor to Cadillac’s girls ski team that placed sixth at the MHSAA Division 2 Final this winter, finishing 20th in both the slalom and giant slalom to earn all-state second-team honors in that sport. She’s a strong student sporting a 3.53 grade-point average but is undecided on what she’ll study at SVSU, although she said she enjoys math and science classes and might consider something in the medical field.  

Coach Jen VanNoord said: “I feel so fortunate to have a player like Abby as my goalkeeper. Just knowing she's in net gives me the freedom and the confidence to play a high-pressure formation. She is intense and crazy and calm all at the same time. Abby has the ability to elevate her game when matches are tight … the tougher the match the better she plays. She's also my player that can make a stressed out teammate laugh and relax with her silly sense of humor. Abby is a powerful role model to the young players and a leader in our soccer community. Her confidence and continued growth as a goalkeeper have made an exceptional impact on me over the last three seasons."

Performance Point: “We have a lot of returning players, and we’ve all been playing with each other since we were 8-year-olds. We know how each other plays, know how to work together to keep other teams from scoring.”

Net minder: (I’m strong at) communication, making sure everyone knows what’s going on. I can see the whole field; they might not be able to see the whole thing. … I like that (keeper) is so different from any other position, and so important also. Most people think you’re the goalie, you just stand there. ... When you make a save, and everyone cheers, that’s pretty cool."

Refuse to lose: “I hate losing. I’m going to do anything to make sure that we don’t lose. Making sure people are dropping (into formation), making sure people aren’t left open, just making sure we don’t get scored on. In practice, I’m known as the silly one. But when it’s game time, a little switch goes on, and I’m serious.”

Goalkeeper’s goal: “I want to win a District. Our school hasn’t won a District in girls soccer ever, so obviously that’s the main goal. That would be pretty crazy, just my senior year to finally have that little extra part.”

SVSU, here I come: “The campus is awesome, the staff is awesome. I don’t really know what I want to do, and they’ve got any field of study that I’d want, so it’s a win-win – I get to play soccer and figure out what I want to do at the same place.”

– 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
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) Abby Divozzo (11) surveys the field during Cadillac's game Saturday against Grand Rapids Northview. (Middle) Divozzo launches the ball downfield. (Photos courtesy of Cadillac girls soccer program.)

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 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.)