Shrine Makes Best of 'Promising' Spring

June 15, 2019

By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Royal Oak Shrine Catholic girls soccer coach Mark Soma knew when he made a promise to Chloe Woodbeck, he’d have to do his best to keep it.

“Chloe and I were texting each other early in the year and I told her ‘If you come play for us, I promise you we will win a state title,’” the coach recalled.

On Saturday afternoon at DeMartin Stadium, the coach made good on his assurance to his Purdue-bound senior. His Knights scored a pair of goals in each half en route to a dominating 4-0 victory over Kalamazoo Christian in the Division 4 championship game, bringing home the school’s first team championship in any sport since 1974.

“He said it and I was like, ‘OK, we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. If we can do it, great. If not, it is what it is,’” Woodbeck said. “So I took the chance and I came out and played, and I’m so happy I did. It’s amazing to be out here with my classmates. It’s something I’ve never been able to do before. I’m so happy I can end my high school career doing this.”

It was Woodbeck, who has attended Shrine but played high-level club soccer with the Michigan Hawks up until this spring, who actually got things going for the Knights. She capitalized on a free kick with 24:11 to play in the first half. Drawing the penalty just moments earlier, Woodbeck sent a shot curling up and over Kalamazoo Christian goalkeeper Jenna Blackwell’s outstretched hands to break the ice for her team.

It proved to be the game-winning goal. But it was just the start for a potent Shrine team which defeated Saginaw Nouvel 6-0 in the Semifinal to earn a berth in its first-ever championship game.

Just under 11 minutes after Woodbeck’s score, junior Lily Hotts took a cross from junior Jess Reaume and redirected it for a 2-0 lead.

As good as the Knights’ offense was, it might have been an even more impressive showing by their defense with the play of junior goalkeeper Allison LaPoint. Trailing by a goal with just under 17 minutes to play in the first half, Kalamazoo Christian junior Lauryn Mohney broke in down the right side. She took a shot from 12 yards out but was thwarted by LaPoint, who made a diving save to her left. LaPoint did the same with 27:30 left in the second half and the Knights leading 2-0. Again it was Mohney on another breakaway. And again, it was LaPoint who made a diving save to preserve the two-goal cushion for her team.

“I rely a lot on my defense because they’re amazing and I trust them. But it is important to be able to make those key saves in tough situations like that,” said LaPoint, who finished the game with four saves.

Shrine (23-3-3) fed off of the defensive energy, scoring to make it 3-0 just five minutes later. Comets head coach Jay Allen felt that was a critical play for his team.

“If Mohney scores that one in the second half, it’s 2-1. That changes the whole complexion of the game,” Allen said. “(LaPoint) makes that save, they come back and it’s 3-0; now we’re in a bigger hole. That keeper is just outstanding. When you have that kind of game, just like hockey, a keeper that can keep you in (the game), that’s half the battle.”

It was freshman Bridgette Drouillard who gave Shrine the three-goal lead, taking a crossing pass from Hotts and punching it home.

Shrine capped off the scoring with 10:24 remaining as junior Regan Robinson took a pass from Drouillard and drilled a shot from 30 yards out.

Despite falling in the Division 4 Final for the third straight season, Allen was proud of his team for achieving what so few get a chance to do.

“We worked hard, from Day 1. When they came in for preseason conditioning, our goal was to be playing here today,” the coach said. “We knew what we needed to do, but (Woodbeck) snuck that one in early on us and we just couldn’t recover from that. My seniors left it all out on the field today. We were just that one pass away, that one shot.”

Kalamazoo Christian finished the season 21-3-2.

Woodbeck has won high-level club championships over the years, but said Saturday’s title was sweet in its own way.

“The difference about playing for your school is the crowd, the amount of people that are here,”  Woodbeck said. “I’ve played in a national championship (game) in San Diego, and there are just parents. It was great, but just having my entire community here and like people I don’t even know who are coming to me, cheering me on. The stands were packed, and I’ve never seen that in club.”

Woodbeck is one of just three seniors on the Shrine roster, along with Katie Norton and Mia Ciarlone. With all the talent returning next year, she’s confident her teammates can do it all over again in 2020.

“I think after this year, the confidence level is so high,” she said. “Even when we were standing in line receiving our medals, everyone was like, ‘Wow, we just did that.’ I think they can do it again. We’ve got like 11 juniors, and they’re all really strong and can carry our midfield. So I think they’re going to be just fine.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Royal Oak Shrine Catholic players prepare to accept their first Finals championship trophy in any sport since 1974. (Middle) Shrine’s Hanna Groth looks to score with Kalamazoo Christian’s Elise Van Sparrentak (15) and Jenna Blackwell defending.

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.)