Preview: Final 8 Filled with Ranked Contenders, Familiar Champs

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 16, 2022

This weekend’s Girls Soccer Finals field includes two of the winningest champions in MHSAA history, and two teams hoping to celebrate the ultimate prize for the first time.

Hudsonville Unity Christian with 10 Finals titles and Marian with nine trail only Madison Heights Bishop Foley’s 12 on the list of most MHSAA girls soccer championships.

Unity’s opponent in the Division 3 Final – two-time runner-up Williamston – is joined by Division 1 Bloomfield Hills as contenders seeking that first title. The other four finalists have a combined 12 championships between them.

Following is this weekend’s schedule:

Division 1 - Friday - 4 p.m.
Bloomfield Hills vs Northville

Division 2 - Saturday - 4 p.m.
Bloomfield Hills Marian vs Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central

Division 3 - Saturday - 1 p.m.
Williamston vs Hudsonville Unity Christian

Division 4 - Friday - 1 p.m.
Royal Oak Shrine vs Kalamazoo Christian

Tickets cost $11 and may be purchased online only at GoFan. One ticket is good for all soccer, softball and baseball games at MSU’s Old College Field that day. All four Finals will be broadcast and available with subscription from, with free audio broadcasts on the MHSAA Network.

Below is a glance at all eight teams taking the field, with statistics through Regionals:

Division 1

Record/rank: 14-2-3, No. 12
League finish: Third in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Alan Zakaria, ninth season (77-30-19)
Championship history: Will be playing in first MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Drew Martin, sr. M (16 goals, 8 assists); Esther Rosett, sr. F (15 goals, three assists); Ava Badallo, sr. F (15 goals, eight assists); Jenica Opdahl, soph. GK (1.10 goals-against average, 10 shutouts).
Outlook: Bloomfield Hills clinched its first Regional title with a 2-1 win over 2021 champion and No. 3-ranked Hartland, and then reached the championship game with a 1-0 Quarterfinal win over No. 9 Portage Central. The Black Hawks are on an 11-0-3 streak over the last two months. Martin made the all-state third team and Rosett earned an honorable mention last season. Senior Alice Spiegel also is among team leaders with seven assists from the midfield.

18-0-5, No. 1
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Coach: Jeannine Reddy, first season (18-0-5)
Championship history: Third MHSAA title (most recent 2014), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Lauren Moraitis, sr. D (9 goals, 23 assists), Sylvia Bohlen, sr. F (9 goals, 4 assists), Caroline Meloche, soph. D (13 goals, 2 assists); Simran Magnan, fr. GK (0.13 goals-against average).
Outlook: The top-ranked Mustangs have given up seven goals total this season and only one over five playoff games – the 2-1 Semifinal win over No. 5 Rochester. Northville also defeated No. 14 Salem in the District Final after tying Salem in both regular-season meetings. Nine senior starters have helped Northville improve from 12-9 a year ago and win its first Regional title since that most recent championship season. Reddy previously led Canton to a Division 1 runner-up finish in 2016.

Division 2

17-1, No. 2
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Reid Friedrichs, first season (17-1)
Championship history: Nine MHSAA titles (most recent 2021), three runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Elle Ervin, soph. F (18 goals, 17 assists); Isa Agrusso, sr. M (19 goals, 9 assists); Abby Lucchesi, sr. M (5 goals, 16 assists); Angelina Briggs, sr. M (18 goals, 9 assists).
Outlook: Marian is seeking a fifth-straight Division 2 title and sits third in MHSAA history with nine total. All nine were won with retired coach Barry Brodsky, but Friedrichs brings a significant resume as a former all-stater at Ann Arbor Pioneer, Big Ten Player of the Year at Michigan State and coach at a variety of stops including Alma College and highly-regarded school and club programs. He inherited a roster and returned an all-state first teamer in Ervin, second teamer in Briggs and third teamer in Lucchesi. This tournament run has included a District Final win over No. 8 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood and Semifinal win over No. 7 Haslett.

19-2-1, No. 4
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Coach: Ashley Ludtke, fifth season (75-11-2)
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2017), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Theryn Hallock, sr. F (32 goals, 14 assists); Lauren Koczenasz, sr. D (14 goals, 4 assists), Ruthie VanSkiver, sr. M (13 goals, 5 assists), Dailey Tucker, jr. F (9 goals, 16 assists).
Outlook: Forest Hills Central reached the Semifinals for the third-straight season and pushed through to the weekend with a 3-1 Semifinal win over No. 6 Richland Gull Lake. FHC also defeated No. 3 Spring Lake in the Regional Final. Hallock, who will play basketball at Michigan State, returned to the soccer field this spring for the first time since middle school and paces the offense for a team that lost only to Gull Lake in its regular-season opener and Division 3 finalist Hudsonville Unity Christian. Senior Stella Sutton also is among team leaders in assists with 14 (and six goals) from the midfield.

Division 3

21-1-1, No. 2
League finish: First in O-K Blue
Coach: Randy Heethuis, 33rd season (599-102-40)
Championship history: Ten MHSAA titles (most recent 2016), three runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Brianna Rose, jr. D (5 goals, 1 assist); Jessie Postma, jr. M (5 goals, 13 assists); Ava Lutke, fr. F (25 goals, 18 assists); Jenna Schreiber, jr. M (12 goals, 8 assists).
Outlook: After also reaching the Semifinals last season, Unity is back in the championship game to finish a run that’s included wins over No. 4 Grand Rapids South Christian, No. 5 Elk Rapids and No. 14 Holland Christian. Unity has given up only five goals over its last 16 games, a stretch that began with a shutout April 29 of Division 2 finalist Forest Hills Central. The only loss came in the season opener to Division 1 No. 2 Hudsonville. Rose made the all-state first team last season, and Postma earned an honorable mention. Juniors Jordan Steen (11 goals/4 assists) off the bench and Olivia Bosworth (8/12) also are among top contributors offensively.

16-2-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Red
Coach: Steve Horn, seventh season (80-24-5)
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up 2010 and 2008.
Players to watch: Ella Kleiver, jr. F (35 goals, 8 assists); Kaley Douglass, sr. F (11 goals, 9 assists); Liz Bellinger, sr. M (6 goals, 22 assists), Ellie Maxson, sr. D (3 goals, 2 assists).
Outlook: The Hornets won their second-straight Regional title and took the next step in the Semifinal, defeating No. 3 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in a shootout to advance. Williamston also defeated No. 7 Essexville Garber and No. 13 Flint Powers Catholic during this tournament run, with its only losses this season to Division 1 No. 6 Midland Dow and Division 2 No. 7 Haslett. Bellinger, Kleiver and junior keeper Abby Pieper made the all-state first team last season, Douglass made the second team, Maxson made the third and senior Sophie Casey and junior Emma Gorsline earned honorable mentions. Pieper and junior Taylor Stenzel have combined this spring to give up 17 goals – or 0.94 per game. Junior Breyer Fenech had added seven goals and 10 assists entering the week.

Division 4

19-5, No. 7
League finish: First in Southwestern Athletic Conference
Coach: Jay Allen, seventh season (148-30-13)
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2008), three runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Ellie Batts, sr. M; Elizabeth Netz, soph. GK; Taylor Leonard, jr. M/F. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Kalamazoo Christian finished Division 4 runner-up three straight seasons from 2017-19, and is back this weekend after giving up only one goal over six playoff games. This tournament run has included wins over No. 3 Lansing Christian and No. 4 North Muskegon. The Comets have 15 shutouts total, with sophomores Sophia Nash and Phoebe Zeyl and senior Madison Triemstra lined up to provide defense in front of Netz. Leonard made the all-state second team last season, and Batts made the third.

16-4-2, No. 10
League finish: Third in Detroit Catholic League AA
Coach: Mark Soma, 22nd season (record N/A)
Championship history: Division 4 champion 2019, runner-up 2021.
Players to watch: Elena Gallagher, soph. GK (0.95 goals-against average, 9 shutouts); Norah Tisko, jr. F (6 goals, 5 assists); Bridgette Drouillard, sr. M (14 goals, 16 assists); Julia Bock, soph. F (9 goals, 5 assists).
Outlook: Shrine is making a third-straight trip to the Division 4 Final, this time after an overtime Semifinal win over Bad Axe and with victories over No. 2 Madison Heights Bishop Foley, No. 5 Clarkston Everest Collegiate and No. 14 Plymouth Christian Academy also part of the run. The Everest win avenged a regular-season loss. Gallagher and Drouillard made the all-state first team last season, and Tisko earned an honorable mention. Senior Claire Plaskey (4 goals/8 assists) also is among key contributors in the midfield.

PHOTO Unity Christian’s Rachel Cremer (14) sends a shot toward the Otsego goal during their Division 3 Regional Final. (Photo by Gary Shook.)

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 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.)