Preview: Ramping Up for Rematches

June 14, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This weekend will feature a first-time scenario in MHSAA girls soccer, and one certainly rare in any sport at any level:

The Division 2, 3 and 4 championships games Friday or Saturday at Williamston High School will be rematches of the same Finals from 2017. Grand Blanc is back in Division 1 and has a rematch ahead as well – against Novi, which followed the Bobcats in league play earlier this spring.

Following is this weekend’s schedule:

Division 1 - Friday - 4 p.m.
Grand Blanc vs. Novi

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

Division 3 - Saturday - 1 p.m.
Flint Powers Catholic vs. Freeland

Division 4 - Friday - 1 p.m.
Kalamazoo Christian vs. Lansing Christian

Tickets cost $8. Radio broadcasts of all games can be heard online at 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.)

Division 1

 27-1, No. 4
Coach: Greg Kehler, 20th season (326-88-57)
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Gold
Championship history: Three runner-up finishes (most recent 2017).  
Players to watch: Paige Webber, jr. F (33 goals, 15 assists); Faith Webber, soph. F (25 goals, 17 assists); Madison McKay, jr. GK (0.38 goals-against average, 18 shutouts); Ashton Cassell, sr. M (15 goals, 8 assists).
Outlook: Grand Blanc will play in its second championship game in three seasons, its only defeat this spring coming early to No. 2 Brighton. The Bobcats have yet to give up a postseason goal after six games including wins over No. 8 Midland and No. 18 Rochester Adams. Cassell and Paige Webber have been named to the all-state first team, Faith Webber made the second, McKay, senior mid Morgan Metzger (8 goals/15 assists) and junior mid Allyson Childers (2/8) made the third and senior defenders Morgan Jewell and Lara Wheeler earned honorable mentions. Sophomore forward Jenna Blackburn added another 16 goals and 10 assists heading into the week.

 18-5-1, No. 6
Coach: Todd Pheiffer, fourth season (56-17-4)
League finish: Third in KLAA Gold
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2011). 
Players to watch: Avery Fenchel, soph. F (20 goals, 9 assists); Jessie Bandyk, jr. M (12 goals/10 assists); Callie Rich, sr. GK (0.98 GAA, 11 shutouts); Emmie Takada, sr. M (4 goals, 1 assist).
Outlook: After finishing third in the same league as Grand Blanc, Novi went on to win its second Regional in three seasons. The Wildcats eliminated No. 14 Northville, No. 15 Saline and No. 20 Canton on the way to this championship game. Bandyk, Fenchel and Rich all have been named to the all-state first team, while Takada, junior defender Lauren Calhoun and freshman defender Eva Burns earned honorable mentions. Junior forward Julia Stadtherr is another valuable scorer, tallying 14 goals heading into this week.

Division 2

 21-0-1, No. 1
Coach: Barry Brodsky, 17
th season (317-26-36)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central.
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recent 2017), three runner-up finishes. 
Players to watch: Jansen Eichenlaub, jr. F (31 goals, 10 assists); Annie Bruce, sr. M (15 goals, 8 assists); Claudia Schilling, sr. M (9 goals, 21 assists); Sara Stroud, jr. M (3 goals, 11 assists).
Outlook: Marian earned its first championship since 2012 last season to move into third alone for most titles in MHSAA girls soccer history. The Mustangs have given up only nine goals and just one over six postseason games while facing No. 4 DeWitt and No. 9 Trenton among others. Bruce, Eichenlaub and Schilling have been named to the all-state first team, while Stroud made the second, junior defender Neve Badalow the third and sophomore forward Chloe Aberlarde (14 goals, 10 assists) and senior defender Emme DeConinck earned honorable mentions. Freshman Maria Askounis added 10 goals and nine assists entering the week.

 19-5, No. 3
Coach: Daniel Siminski, fifth season (87-16-10)
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference White.
Championship history: Three runner-up finishes (most recent 2017). 
Players to watch: Elyse DeSchryver, soph. M/F (17 goals, 3 assists); Addie Brown, soph. M (13 goals, 19 assists); Credence White, sr. M (9 goals, 2 assists); Sophia Terzes, sr. M (4 goals, 5 assists).
Outlook: Forest Hills Northern is aiming for its first championship after finishing runner-up the last two years, and with a few of last season’s standouts setting the pace again. Brown led the team in goals in 2017 and has been named to the all-state second team this season, while DeSchryver made the third team. Terzes also is a past all-stater. After winning the Regional Final in a shootout against Spring Lake, FHN downed No. 2 Richland Gull Lake in overtime in the Semifinal. The Rangers also eliminated No. 7 Lowell, No. 8 Ada Forest Hills Eastern and No. 18 Middleville Thornapple Kellogg during this run.

Division 3

Record/rank: 22-1-3, No. 1
Coach: Art Moody, 11
th season (207-41-20)
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League.
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2017), six runner-up finishes. 
Players to watch: Sophie Bubnar, sr. F (23 goals, 31 assists); Rachel Rasins, jr. F (35 goals, 16 assists), Madeline Cardinal, sr. M (11 goals, 20 assists); Natalie Deitering, soph. GK (0.79 GAA, 15 shutouts).
Outlook: Powers will play in its third straight championship game after winning its first title last season since 2011. The Chargers have 19 shutouts and haven’t given up a goal during the postseason while averaging more than six goals per playoff game. They’ve defeated No. 6 Warren Regina, No. 9 Montrose, No. 10 Birch Run and No. 11 Williamston along the way. Bubnar, Cardinal and Raisins made the all-state first team, while Deitering and freshman defender Kate Cardinal made the second team, junior midfielder Camryn Murlick (7 goals, 7 assists) made the third and junior Dominique Amato (17 goals, 12 assists) earned an honorable mention. Junior forward Kennedy Myers added 13 goals and 10 assists heading into the week; she and Amato are high-scoring subs.

 22-4, No. 18
Coach: Lauren Kemerer, fifth season (103-12-4)
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference Central.
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up 2017. 
Players to watch: Mackenzie Stroebel, sr. F (30 goals, 10 assists); Autumn Kloha, jr. F (26 goals, 13 assists); Kayler Radaz, sr. M (11 goals, 7 assists); Erin Tyson, jr. M (15 goals, 14 assists).
Outlook: Freeland cruised through most of its first five postseason games without giving up a goal, then allowed one in upsetting No. 4 Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the Semifinal. A number of this season’s top contributors helped the Falcons to their first MHSAA championship game a year ago. Kloha and Stroebel have been named all-state first team, while Radaz and Tyson earned honorable mentions. Junior Madeline Boyes (16 goals, 3 assists) fills out a group of talented forwards, while junior Emerson Lynch (11 goals, 10 assists) comes off the bench to supply the midfield.

Division 4

 18-2-5, No. 3
Coach: Jay Allen, fourth season (91-15-11)
League finish: Tied for first in Southwestern Athletic Conference
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2008), Division 4 runner-up 2017.
Players to watch: Kayla Beebe, jr. F; Lauryn Mohney, soph. M; Elise VanSparrentak, jr. D; Emma Bertrand, jr. M. (Statistics not submitted). 
Outlook: Kalamazoo Christian returned to the championship round last season for the first time since winning Division 4 in 2008, and Beebe is back after also helping that team to the season’s final day. She made the all-state first team this spring, while Mohney made the second, VanSparrentak the third and Bertrand and sophomore keeper Jenna Blackwell earned honorable mentions. Kalamazoo Christian was one of the few to score this season on top-ranked North Muskegon, going on to win a Semifinal shootout to advance, and the Comets also beat No. 6 Kalamazoo Hackett during this tournament run.

 18-3-2, No. 2
Coach: Joel Vande Kopple, 12
th season (189-49-15)
League finish: First in Greater Lansing Activities Conference.
Championship history: Division 4 champion 2017, two runner-up finishes.  
Players to watch: Kasey Jamieson, jr. F (53 goals, 18 assists); Jenna Li, sr. M (17 goals, 21 assists); Kealeigh Usiak, jr. D (3 goals, 1 assist); Lynn Cullens, sr. GK (0.73 GAA, 15 shutouts).
Outlook: The Pilgrims broke through for their first championship last season and have made at least the Semifinals five straight seasons. Jamieson will finish among the leading scorers in MHSAA history and made the all-state first team with Li and Cullens. Usiak made the second team, and junior midfielder Eliza Lewis earned an honorable mention. Lansing Christian shut out No. 7 Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett in a Semifinal, its fifth shutout in five tournament games while also defeating No. 5 Manchester and No. 18 Dansville among others.

PHOTO: Lansing Christian’s Kasey Jamieson (11) moves the ball upfield during last season’s Division 4 Final against Kalamazoo Christian.

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.)