Off Top Finish, Somsel Eyes Bright Future

June 23, 2020

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

TECUMSEH – Erin Somsel will be giving her Valedictorian speech to fellow Tecumseh High School graduates next month. Her message will be to not take anything for granted.

“I think that’s a pretty important thing, especially because of what we are all going through right now,” said Somsel. “You just never know.”

Somsel wasn’t one to take anything for granted in the classroom or on the Tecumseh soccer field. 

She entered her senior year No. 3 academically in her class but juggled four advanced placement classes to finish first among her classmates with a 4.222 grade point average. 

“I made the goal of being Valedictorian my freshman year,” she said. “I didn’t know if it was possible. I was No. 3 in my class my sophomore and junior years and the start of my senior year. I think the extra advanced placement classes helped put me over the top. It was tough, but worth it.”

Somsel, 18, wants to become a neurologist. She will study biology and biochemistry on a pre-med track at Kalamazoo College. Oh, yeah – she plans on playing soccer too.

“I knew I wanted to play at the next level for a while now,” she said. “Soccer has been a year-round sport for me. It’s been my only sport since middle school.”

Somsel picked up the game before going to school. By the age of 7 she was playing club soccer on traveling teams.

“I played on the local club team in Tecumseh for two years and then moved to the Jackson Rush,” she said. “It was through club soccer that we had a camp in which there was some college coaches. The Kalamazoo coach came to the camp year after year. I’ve known him since my freshman year.”

She missed out on her senior season of soccer because of the global pandemic but committed to Kalamazoo recently. She played center back for Tecumseh and the Rush and intends to continue playing defense in college.

“I’ve always just liked defense,” she said. “I was never one of those players that wanted to be up front and to score goals. I gravitated toward defense from the start. At center-mid, I like the fact that you can see the entire field and sort of direct people. That’s where I like to play.”

Somsel has been a captain for both the Rush and her Tecumseh squad. She was named to the all-county and all-District teams in 2018 and 2019 and was honorable mention in the Southeastern Conference. She picked up two “Defender of the Year” honors from Tecumseh.

Over three varsity seasons, she started all 56 games in which she played. She scored seven goals and had 10 assists over her three seasons, taking just 40 shots on goal during her career. 

When she wasn’t hitting the books or on the soccer field, Somsel volunteered with the Lenawee County Humane Society and was an active member of the National Honor Society and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions). 

Somsel isn’t worried about trying to mix soccer into her college regimen. By now, she’s used to it.

“Soccer really helped me tremendously with my academics,” said the daughter of Jim and Holly Somsel. “It helped me develop a really good work ethic. I had to have a really good study schedule to keep up with everything, and I had to stick to that schedule. Soccer helped me stay on track.”

Taking the advanced placement classes wasn’t an accident.

“I felt it would be a really good idea, especially since I am going into pre-med,” she said. “I thought it would better prepare me for playing sports and studying in college.”

She did a lot of homework during the car rides from her home in Tecumseh to Jackson, the home of her club team.

“My parents and everyone was super supportive,” she said. “My Tecumseh coaches (Thomas Goodman and Matt Twiss) and my Rush coach (Marco Bernardini) really helped me along the way.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Tecumseh’s Erin Somsel lines up a free kick during a game last season. (Middle) Somsel, wearing 2 earlier in her career, controls the ball. (Top photo courtesy of Somsel; middle by Mike Dickie.)

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.)