South Christian Scores 1st MHSAA Title

June 15, 2013

By Chip Mundy
Special to Second Half

MASON – Grand Rapids South Christian girls soccer coach Jason Boersma likes to shift senior Kayla Diemer between playing defense and forward.

Boersma let out a hearty laugh Saturday afternoon when Diemer was asked which position she preferred. He anticipated the response.

“I like to put the ball in the net,” Diemer said. “It’s my favorite part.”

Diemer must have loved playing in the MHSAA Division 3 championship game, as she scored the only goal in South Christian’s 1-0 victory over Pontiac Notre Dame Prep at Mason High School.

Diemer broke a scoreless deadlock in the 64th minute when she took a pass from freshman Cierra Buist and beat the goalkeeper for her 12th goal of the season. The Sailors made it hold up for the first MHSAA girls soccer championship in school history.

“Kayla got the goal; she deserves it,” Boersma said. “She’s been a leader on this team all year. She’s a top player, she plays defense, and she’s been willing to change her role.

“She loves to play forward, and we got her up there for a little while (Saturday), and it paid off.”

Diemer played it off almost matter-of-factly.

“I was in the right place at the right time, I guess,” she said. “It was a perfect pass from Cierra. I think there was a defender on me, and I just tapped it to the side. It was just a blur.

“I just saw the goalie and got it past her.”

Both teams came into their first championship game riding hot offenses. South Christian had outscored five tournament opponents 20-3, while the Fighting Irish outscored six opponents by a combined 28-4 score.

“That was the one time that they really executed what I had heard about them and did exactly what they wanted to do,” Notre Dame Prep coach Jim Stachura said about the goal. “That was the only time in the game that they did exactly what they wanted to do.

“Their size and speed definitely was the difference in the game. We just didn’t have enough of the size and speed. We don’t have the athletes to match up with them. The bottom line is athletically they were just tough, and a lot of girls were physically spent at the end of the game.”

One of South Christian’s priorities was containing Notre Dame Prep’s Taylor Timko, a junior who already has verbally agreed to play at the University of Michigan and had 39 goals coming into the game.

Timko had a few chances, including one from directly in front of the net in the first half. She missed wide left on that shot, and in the 75th minute she was stopped by South Christian goalkeeper Emily Blankespoor, a junior who registered her 15th shutout and said she didn’t know it was Timko who was 12 yards in front of her ready to shoot.

“Things happen so fast that I wasn’t paying attention to who it was,” she said. “I just knew they were going to shoot, and my gut reaction was that you have to make the stop.

“I dove to my left. I stopped it with my left hand, and it went a little bit in front of me, and then I jumped on it. My defense is really great, and they’ve been great all season for me, so it’s just about you have to react, and if it goes in, you can’t do anything about it”

Although Blankespoor did not know who was shooting, Boersma certainly did.

“Our goalie came up with a monster save,” he said. “On the bench we just thought, ‘Oh no, here it is, 12 yards out, this girl’s a scorer,’ and she put it right on the net.

“(Timko) is a great player. You can see that left foot she has, she hit some rockets, and she missed one. We talked all day about forcing her to her right, and she got three good cracks with her left, which is what we didn’t want to happen.”

Although South Christian seemed to dominate play with the ball being in the Notre Dame Prep end most of the game, the Fighting Irish held a 6-3 edge in shots on goal.

“I thought we did a really, really good job considering the fact that we left more goals on the field,” Stachura said. “It’s a bummer it turns out those lost opportunities were just a little wide.”

South Christian, which entered the game ranked No. 1 in Division 3, finished the season 22-1-3, while the second-ranked Fighting Irish ended 21-3-2.

“To end the season in this fashion with a state championship, this is what these girls have been looking for for years,” Boersma said. “We have a lot of these girls who are leaders, and they said in the fifth grade they wanted to do it. To have it happen is a dream come true. Their team effort as a whole – our team defense – we’ve had nine goals on us this year.

“What a year, a boys championship and girls championship. This is special.”

Click for a full box score.

PHOTO: Grand Rapids South Christian’s Kayla Diemer celebrates her goal, which ended up being the lone score in her team’s Division 3 championship win over Pontiac Notre Dame Prep. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)