Performance: Gull Lake's Reagan Wisser

May 17, 2018

Reagan Wisser
Richland Gull Lake junior – Soccer

The Blue Devils’ all-state forward helped deliver her team a league title and a little bit of vengeance May 9, scoring two goals in Gull Lake’s 3-0 win over Portage Central that clinched the regular-season Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference championship and earned Wisser the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” Wisser then scored two more goals in Monday’s SMAC Tournament semifinal win over Mattawan and all three in Wednesday’s championship game as Gull Lake pulled out a 3-2 overtime victory again over the rival Mustangs.

Gull Lake is 14-0-1 this spring and ranked No. 2 in Division 2, while Portage Central is up to No. 5 in Division 1 in this week’s state coaches association poll. This is the first year all SMAC teams are back in one division; Gull Lake won the last five SMAC East girls soccer championships, and last week’s win made six straight regular-season titles. But those Portage Central victories also meant a little more – during last season’s SMAC Tournament, the Mustangs ended Gull Lake’s four-year league winning streak.

The Blue Devils won three straight Division 2 titles from 2013-15 with Wisser’s older sister Riley playing a prominent role, and Reagan is working to lead Gull Lake back to that former height. A three-year starter, she has 29 goals and five assists this spring and is up to 69 goals for her career. Wisser already is set to continue her career after high school at Western Michigan University, and she carries a 4.0 grade-point average with plans to study nursing.   

Coach Jeff Corstange said: “Reagan started out her freshman year trying to fit into our system, understand our system, and sophomore year she grasped onto it. (This season) she’s taken the team under her wings and flown with it. … She’s peaked into a tremendous soccer player. I kinda expected (this success), but I don’t think she expected it. Last year when she was getting man marked, she’d get frustrated. She’d get angry that she didn’t score, didn’t contribute to the team. Now she understands that she’s getting man marked but finding ways with her teammates to get open. She’s getting creative, and we tried to stress with her to be creative. … She’s even better off the field – she’s one of the nicest people you’ll meet.”

Performance Point: “It just shows no matter who we play, we are going to come out and do our best and give everything we’ve got to beat them,” Wisser said of the two Portage Central wins. “Last year they beat us, and we also lost our SMAC championship last year, so we had a lot more energy going in. We knew what it felt like to be on the other side, and we didn’t want that to happen again. … (Wednesday) night was super exciting, and we knew going in it would be a game determined by who wanted it more. Throughout the game, we picked up our intensity – and we won because we wanted it more. Definitely, I try to step up as much as I can, but I couldn’t have done it without the help of my teammates encouraging me and pushing me to be my best.”

Time to lead: “I’ve definitely stepped up my leadership role and encouraged others to step up on the field and to be the best they can be every game, because you never know when it can be your last. I looked up to our past captains the years before and how they picked up each and every player and showed them that they can be their best every game. Especially with the team this year, it’s pretty easy to pick each other up, push each other to play harder and play for everyone else around you. … (Leading) actually makes me a better person, makes me want to step up and it makes me want to play harder for my teammates.”

Winning formula: “The team chemistry that we have is nothing like we’ve had in the years before, and I think this year everybody just wants it more. In years before, when people have made mistakes, we kinda just ignored it and we thought they were hanging their heads. But this year, if anyone makes a mistake, everybody’s surrounding them, and (saying) ‘You’ll get the next one,’ and everybody just picks each other up – and it’s just so much more fun to play that way. It makes a huge difference. If you miss a shot, your teammates aren’t going to be mad at you, and you’ll try your best to get the next one. It picks you up as a player and makes you want to play harder for your teammates.”

Mentors to follow: “I just remember watching (my sister’s) games and watching her playing in the state finals, and all the excitement that she had. It made me want to be in her position, made me want to win states. She told me to just keep my head up, and everything will play out as long as you play as a team and play together. … Grace Labadie, she played at Loy Norrix and is at Western now; I played against her my freshman and sophomore year, and she’s just so amazing on and off the ball, and she just was a great teammate to watch and play against. She taught me some moves, and she just talks to me after games and tells me things I did well and things I can improve on. When we’d beat her in games, she always kinda got mad, but she was like, ‘You need to stop being so good.’ It is (a big compliment).”

Paging Nurse Wisser: “Western has a great nursing program … and it really gets me excited for the future. Ever since I was little, I wanted to go into the medical field because I love helping people in any way that I can.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2017-18 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army 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 protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Previous 2017-18 honorees:
May 10: Clayton Sayen, Houghton track & field - Read
May 3: Autumn Roberts, Traverse City Central tennis - Read
April 26: Thomas Robinson, Wyoming Lee track & field - Read
March 29: Carlos Johnson, Benton Harbor basketball - Read
March 22: Shine Strickland-Gills, Saginaw Heritage basketball - Read
March 15: Skyler Cook-Weeks, Holland Christian swimming - Read
March 8: Dakota Greer, Howard City Tri-County wrestling - Read
March 1: Camree' Clegg, Wayne Memorial basketball - Read
February 23: Aliah Robertson, Sault Ste. Marie swimming - Read
February 16: Austin O'Hearon, Eaton Rapids wrestling - Read
February 9: Sophia Wiard, Muskegon Oakridge basketball - Read
February 2: Brenden Tulpa, Hartland hockey - Read
January 25: Brandon Whitman, Dundee wrestling - Read
January 18: Derek Maas, Holland West Ottawa swimming - Read
January 11: Lexi Niepoth, Bellaire basketball - Read
November 30: La'Darius Jefferson, Muskegon football - Read
November 23: Ashley Turak, Farmington Hills Harrison swimming - Read
November 16: Bryce Veasley, West Bloomfield football - Read 
November 9: Jose Penaloza, Holland soccer - Read
November 2: Karenna Duffey, Macomb L'Anse Creuse North cross country - Read
October 26: Anika Dy, Traverse City West golf - Read
October 19: Andrew Zhang, Bloomfield Hills tennis - Read
October 12: Nolan Fugate, Grand Rapids Catholic Central football - Read
October 5: Marissa Ackerman, Munising tennis - Read
September 28: Minh Le, Portage Central soccer - Read
September 21: Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic cross country - Read
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Richland Gull Lake's Reagan Wisser (5) pushes the ball upfield during a game this season. (Middle) Wisser works to get around a defender. (Photos courtesy of the Gull Lake athletic department.)

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.)