Preview: Number 1s Aim to Finish on Top
June 15, 2017
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The top-ranked teams in all four divisions have made good on those expectations as we turn to the final two days of the 2017 girls soccer season.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central in Division 1, Bloomfield Hills Marian in Division 2, Flint Powers Catholic in Division 3 and Lansing Christian in Division 4 started the playoffs as favorites two weeks ago and remain so – although all four surely are anticipating one of if not their toughest matchup of this season.
Following is this weekend’s schedule at Williamston High School:
Division 1 - Saturday - 4 p.m.
Grand Blanc vs. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central
Division 2 - Friday - 4 p.m.
Bloomfield Hills Marian vs. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern
Division 3 - Friday - 1 p.m.
Flint Powers Catholic vs. Freeland
Division 4 - Saturday - 1 p.m.
Kalamazoo Christian vs. Lansing Christian
Tickets cost $8. 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.
All statistics below are through Regionals. (Click for links to brackets and scores.)
Record/rank: 22-2-4, No. 4
Coach: Greg Kehler, 19th season (299-86-57)
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West.
Championship history: Two runner-up finishes (most recent 2015).
Players to watch: Paige Webber, soph. F (23 goals, 14 assists); Faith Webber, fr. F (23 goals, nine assists); Alexandra Childers, sr. D; Chelsea Clark, sr. D.
Outlook: Grand Blanc shut out its first four postseason opponents and 15 total this spring, as defense clearly is a strength with Childers and Clark earning all-state honorable mentions last season. Sophomore Madison McKay has 12 shutouts season while giving up on average less than a goal a game. Junior Morgen Metzger is the main distributor of the offense with 21 assists entering this week, and freshman Jenna Blackburn has added 12 goals.
GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS CENTRAL
Record/rank: 20-0-4, No. 1
Coach: Jeremy Stacy, 10th season (171-20-10)
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White.
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2008 in Division 2), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Emma Yoder, jr. GK (0.32 goals-against average, 13 shutouts); Bailey Korhorn, jr. F (29 goals, 15 assists); Stephanie Currie, soph. F (15 goals, 18 assists); Madeline Becker, jr. M (19 goals, 11 assists); Natalie Lunt, jr. D.
Outlook: Forest Hills Central has been ranked No. 1 the entire season as it’s pursued its first Division 1 championship and after suffering its only loss in a Semifinal last spring. Korhorn made the all-state first team last season, while Becker made the second, Yoder the third and Currie and Lunt earned honorable mentions. Junior Madison Donley (16 goals, 18 assists) and sophomore Ashley Ward (14 goals) also are dangerous offensive options up top.
BLOOMFIELD HILLS MARIAN
Record/rank: 23-0, No. 1
Coach: Barry Brodsky, 16th season (297-26-35)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central.
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2012), three runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Jansen Eichenlaub, soph. F (27 goals, 7 assists); Claudia Schilling, jr. M (10 goals, 15 assists); Ellie Deconinck, sr. F (18 goals, 21 assists); Elaina Eckert, sr. F (7 goals, 10 assists).
Outlook: Marian long has been a state power, most recently finishing Division 2 runner-up in both 2013 and 2014 and falling in a Semifinal a year ago. The Mustangs have tied for the third-most shutouts in one season with 22 and with another Saturday would tie the MHSAA record by giving up only one goal this season. Senior Isabel Hayes has seen most of the time in net.
GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS NORTHERN
Record/rank: 20-0-3, No. 2
Coach: Daniel Siminski, fourth season (67-9-10)
League finish: First in O-K White.
Championship history: Two runner-up finishes (most recent 2016).
Players to watch: Natalie Belsito, sr. M/F (15 goals, 9 assists); Sophie Terzes, jr. M (4 goals, 8 assists); Emily Ashby, jr. D/M (5 goals, 12 assists), Lauren Kozal, jr. GK/F (16 goals, 7 assists).
Outlook: Forest Hills Northern also is loaded with standouts, with Ashby making the all-state first team last season, Belsito making the second and Terzes making the third. Senior keeper Amanda Young also made the first team and should be in the mix Saturday after missing the Semifinal; Kozal stepped into net and will join Michigan State’s team in two years reportedly as a keeper. Freshman midfielder/forward Addie Brown joined her with a team-leading 16 goals heading into this week.
FLINT POWERS CATHOLIC
Record/rank: 25-1-2, No. 1
Coach: Art Moody, 10th season (184-40-17)
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League.
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2011, six runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Sophie Bubnar, jr. F (15 goals, 20 assists); Rachel Rasins, soph. F (31 goals, 14 assists), Rachel Phillpotts, sr. D (13 goals, 7 assists), Sophia Dubiel, sr. F (10 goals, 8 assists).
Outlook: The Chargers, last season’s runners-up, will play for the title again after downing six of the top 17 ranked teams during the postseason – No. 9 Birch Run, No. 10 Frankenmuth, No. 6 Williamston, No. 16 Lansing Catholic, No. 17 Montrose and No. 8 Macomb Lutheran North. Rasins and Phillpotts made the all-state first team last season, while Bubnar made the second and senior defender Sydney Wilhoite made the third. Dubiel and senior defender Abbey Clothier earned honorable mentions.
Record/rank: 22-1, No. 3
Coach: Lauren Kemerer, fourth season (82-8-4)
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference Central.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Jessica Piper, sr. M (13 goals, 18 assists); Mackenzie Stroebel, jr. F (40 goals, 12 assists); Michelle Herring, sr. M (26 goals, 14 assists); Autumn Kloha, soph. F (32 goals, 7 assists).
Outlook: The Falcons advanced to their first championship game by ending No. 2 Hudsonville Unity Christian’s pursuit of a fourth straight Division 2 title. That win had to be the highlight of many this spring, and came in Freeland’s fourth straight Semifinal appearance. Herring made the all-state first team last season, while Piper and Stroebel made the third and Kloha earned honorable mention. Junior midfielder Kayler Radaz had 12 goals and sophomore midfielder Emerson Lynch 14 assists entering this week, and junior keeper Alexa Walker has 14 shutouts.
Record/rank: 20-2-3, No. 8
Coach: Jay Allen, fourth season (73-13-7)
League finish: First in Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley.
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2008).
Players to watch: Haley Balkema, sr. F (19 goals, 10 assists); Phoebe Will, soph. F/M (11 goals); Allyson Kranstz, sr. GK (0.30 goals-against average, 19 shutouts); Kayla Beebe, soph. F (28 goals).
Outlook: Christian has won four league and District titles and made the Semifinals this week for the second time under former assistant Allen, who was part of the program for all four championship runs last decade. Kranstz and senior midfielder/forward Abbey VanDongen both made the all-state second team last season. The Comets opened the postseason by upsetting No. 2 Kalamazoo Hackett, and downed No. 16 Muskegon Catholic Central in the Semifinal.
Record/rank: 22-2-2, No. 1
Coach: Joel Vande Kopple, 11th season (172-46-13)
League finish: First in Greater Lansing Activities Conference.
Championship history: Two runner-up finishes (most recent 2015).
Players to watch: Juliana Figueriredo, sr. M (10 goals, 17 assists); Kasey Jamieson, jr. F (42 goals, 16 assists); Rilyn Ross, soph. F (19 goals, 13 assists); Kealeigh Usiak, soph. D.
Outlook: Lansing Christian finished runner-up both in 2015 and 2011 and has played in four straight Semifinals. A star-studded lineup has made the Pilgrims favorites to claim their first title – Figueriredo, Jamieson and Usiak made the all-state first team last season, while sophomore midfielders Alex Hanks and Eliza Lewis and senior defender Lydia Sprague earned honorable mentions. Lansing Christian has continued to shine even without senior defender Abby Krueger, also an all-state first-teamer last season who has missed these recent playoffs with an injury.
PHOTO: Forest Hills Northern's Natalie Belsito works to gain possession against Pontiac Notre Dame during last season's Division 2 Final. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.)