Preview: 4 More Seek to Join Champs List
June 16, 2016
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Half of the teams playing in MHSAA Girls Soccer Finals on Friday or Saturday will be seeking their first championships. One, Montrose, will be playing in a championship game for the first time.
And at least one of those four finales, in Division 2, will see some team celebrate an MHSAA title for the first time.
That's just one of the possibilities to look forward to from this season's final weekend. Following is the schedule at DeMartin Stadium:
Division 1 - Friday - 4 p.m.
Canton (17-2-4) vs Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (17-3-3)
Division 2 - Saturday - 4 p.m.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (16-3-4) vs Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (20-1-3)
Division 3 - Saturday - 1 p.m.
Hudsonville Unity Christian (21-2-1) vs Flint Powers Catholic (21-2-1)
Division 4 - Friday - 1 p.m.
Montrose (23-3-1) vs Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (18-2-1)
Tickets cost $8 per round and include admission to softball and baseball games those days also at MSU’s Old College Field. Radio broadcasts of all games can be heard online at MHSAAnetwork.com. All games will be streamed live online at MHSAA.TV and viewable on subscription basis. Click to order tickets in advance and for a parking map.
All statistics below are through Regionals. (Click for links to brackets and scores.)
Record/rank: 17-2-4, unranked
Coach: Jeannine Reddy, sixth season (83-28-14)
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association South
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2001), three runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Jennifer Richmond, jr. F; Jordan Anheuser, sr. GK. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Canton should be riding high from eliminating top-ranked Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central in the Semifinal after needing overtime shootouts twice to advance in earlier rounds. This will be the Chiefs’ first championship game appearance since the last title run 15 years ago. The only losses this spring came in the final two regular-season games, against No. 4 Novi and No. 8 Walled Lake Northern. Richmond earned an all-state honorable mention last season.
ROCHESTER HILLS STONEY CREEK
Record/rank: 17-3-3, No. 10
Coach: Bryan Mittelstadt, sixth season (93-20-6)
League finish: Third in Oakland Activities Conference Red.
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2005.
Players to watch: Taylor Paradoski, sr. F (21 goals, 8 assists); Emily Solek, jr. M (8 goals, 11 assists); Gina Cerny, jr. GK (0.76 goals-against average, 9 shutouts).
Outlook: Stoney Creek won its first Regional title since that 2005 championship game run and has beaten four top-15 teams during this one – No. 2 Utica Eisenhower, No. 4 Novi, No. 7 Utica Ford and No. 14 Troy Athens. The Cougars have outscored their six postseason opponents by a combined score of 11-2. Paradoski, one of two senior starters and three on the roster, made the Division 1 all-state second team last season.
GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS NORTHERN
Record/rank: 16-3-4, unranked
Coach: Daniel Siminski, third season (48-9-7)
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Bronze.
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2010.
Players to watch: Emily Ashby, soph. M/D (4 goals, 8 assists); Sophia Terzes, soph. F/M (9 goals, 20 assists); Amanda Young, jr. GK (0.54 goals-against average, 13 shutouts).
Outlook: Forest Hills Northern beat No. 13 Dexter in the Semifinal to return to the Finals, but could become a regular contender the next few seasons as defender Shelby Ostrander is the only senior. Ashby made the all-state third team and Terzes earned an honorable mention last season as freshmen, and junior Natalie Belsito and sophomore Lauren Kozal are the team’s leading scorers with 17 and 11 goals, respectively.
PONTIAC NOTRE DAME PREP
Record/rank: 20-1-3, No. 3
Coach: Jim Stachura, seventh season (110-35-10)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Division 2
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up 2013.
Players to watch: Rosella LoChirco, sr. M (15 goals, 11 assists); Celia Gaynor, soph. M (18 goals, 16 assists); Erika Wiest, sr. F (15 goals, 14 assists).
Outlook: Notre Dame Prep’s return to the Finals included wins over No. 1 DeWitt, No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Marian, No. 8 Warren Regina and No. 14 Fenton, with none of six postseason opponents scoring more than a goal on the Fighting Irish. Keeper Haley Williams was giving up only 0.57 goals per game and had nine shutouts coming into the week. LoChirco made the all-state first team last season.
FLINT POWERS CATHOLIC
Record/rank: 21-2-1, No. 1
Coach: Art Moody, ninth season (160-39-15)
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League South
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2011, five runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Sophie Bubnar, soph. F (16 goals, 17 assists); Erin Emmert, sr. M (6 goals, 9 assists); Rachel Phillpotts, jr. D (11 goals, 4 assists).
Outlook: Powers will play in its first Final since finishing runner-up in 2012 thanks to a Quarterfinal win over No. 4 Grosse Ile in addition to previous tournament wins over No. 8 Birch Run and No. 14 Macomb Lutheran North. Phillpotts made the all-state first team last season and is one of three defenders honored; juniors Abbey Clothier and Sydney Willhoite both earned honorable mentions in 2015, and Emmert made the all-state second team. The Chargers have given up only 16 goals this season, and freshman forward Rachel Rasins alone leads Powers with 18 goals.
HUDSONVILLE UNITY CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 21-2-1, No. 2
Coach: Randy Heethuis, 27th season (509-89-29)
League finish: First in O-K Green.
Championship history: Nine MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), three runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Maddy VanDyke, sr. D (11 goals, 7 assists); Alexis Ponstein, soph. F (10 goals, 11 assists); Emily Ponstein, jr. GK (0.39 goals-against average, 13 shutouts).
Outlook: Unity Christian’s run is up to two straight titles and three over the last four seasons. The Crusaders have gotten past No. 5 Paw Paw and No. 6 Freeland so far this run, outscoring its six tournament opponents by a combined score of 26-1. Unity Christian has given up only 11 goals this season and more than one only twice. VanDyke is a two-time all-state first-teamer. Senior forward Aubree DeRoo had 10 goals entering this week and adds another scoring threat.
GROSSE POINTE WOODS UNIVERSITY LIGGETT
Record/rank: 18-2-1, No. 4
Coach: David Dwaihy, eighth season (97-44-3)
League finish: First in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference
Championship history: Division 4 champion 2005.
Players to watch: Alexis Wenger, soph. F (28 goals, 10 assists); Kelly Solak, soph. M (12 goals, 12 assists); Maddie Wu, jr. M (2 goals).
Outlook: Liggett won its fifth straight District title and second straight Regional this spring, and could take the next step with a young but talented nucleus. In addition to Wenger and Solak, freshman midfielder Izzy Brusilow had 12 goals and 13 assists entering the week, and junior keeper Kara Francis had 10 shutouts. Senior Madison Jerome and junior Rebecca Lohman joined Wu and Solak among those who earned all-state honors at some level in 2015.
Record/rank: 23-3-1, No. 8
Coach: Jason Perrin, 13th season (183-77-20)
League finish: Second in Genesee Area Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Alexis Rush, sr. GK (0.35 goals-against average, 20 shutouts); Paige Renshaw, sr. M (31 goals, 17 assists); Emma Gipe, fr. F (19 goals, 9 assists).
Outlook: The Rams’ best season has included their first Regional title and now this opportunity but is not entirely a surprise, as Montrose has had a winning record every spring under Perrin. Renshaw earned an all-state honorable mention last season and has plenty of scoring help; in addition to Gipe, senior Ellory Barnette and sophomore Amber Wing both had 14 goals heading into this week, and sophomore Remington Hobson had 11. Montrose handed No. 2 Elk Rapids its first and only loss in the Regional Final and downed top-ranked Lansing Christian in the Semifinal.
PHOTO: Hudsonville Unity Christian players hoist their latest Division 3 championship trophy last season amid the fans and cameras at DeMartin Stadium.
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.)