Tyler Meets Challenges, Aims for Final Goal

May 9, 2018

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

Talia Tyler has showed her competitive fire, really, since birth. But one really good example of how occurred when she was 6 years old.

She had just scored a bunch of goals in a youth game and her father, Jim – partially to keep her humble and partially to be the smart-aleck that he is – quipped to her tongue-in-cheek:

“Too bad you didn’t score any with your left foot.”

Later that day, little Talia was out in the yard with her soccer ball, shooting exclusively with her left foot. The next game, she scored all of her goals with her left foot, each time followed immediately by a glare to her father on the sidelines.

“I always try to challenge myself, in school and in sports, to be the best that I can,” explained Tyler, whose constant striving – not to mention her speed and smarts – has landed her a spot on the women’s soccer team at Columbia University, a Division I school in the Ivy League, located in New York City.

The immediate challenge for Tyler, the senior striker and leader of the Muskegon Catholic Central girls soccer team, and her teammates is to try and improve on last year’s run to the MHSAA Division 4 Semifinals – which capped the best season in school history.

Muskegon Catholic, which is 8-1 overall and a perfect 4-0 in the Lakes 8 Athletic Conference this spring, lost just three seniors off last year’s team which won the school’s first-ever girls soccer Regional title before bowing 2-0 to Kalamazoo Christian in the Semifinals.

Led by Tyler, the Crusaders have made winning the Division 4 championship their No. 1 goal this year.

Tyler, who has six goals and three assists so far, is joined up front by senior Lauren Doriot (who currently leads the team with seven goals), freshman standout Emily Olsen, sophomores Caitlyn Fodrocy and Payton Helton and junior A’lahna Cherry.

Kyra Tyler, a junior and Talia’s younger sister and the last of four standout Tyler athletes at MCC, is the top defender for the Crusaders – along with seniors Kasia Gasior, Roxy Hubl and Zoie Price, who is currently sidelined with a leg injury.

The final line of defense is one of the state’s best keepers in senior Isabelle Bertolone, although she rarely gets to show her ability in regular-season games as the Crusaders normally keep most of the action on the opposite side of the midfield stripe.

“We are loaded enough that we should make another run,” said second-year MCC coach Art Dorsey, who was notably frustrated after a narrow 2-0 victory Monday over conference rival Muskegon Orchard View. “We should be playing much better than we are. We need a little more hunger, a little more sense of urgency.”

Dorsey knows one of the biggest challenges in the entire state is just a few miles away in North Muskegon, which is undefeated and on a District collision course with MCC.

Tyler said the key to winning games in the postseason is mental.

“Girls soccer really comes down to which team shows up focused and ready,” said Tyler, who has served as her class president for the past three years. “Really, one of the biggest keys for us is staying healthy. We will keep working on it and getting better.”

Tyler’s tenacity and grit shines through in key moments in big games, but the first thing everyone notices about the 5-foot-6 senior is her speed.

Tyler is so fast that in her sophomore and junior years she ran track in the spring, in addition to her soccer. In her sophomore year, she finished eighth in the 200 meters at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals. In her junior year, she qualified for the Finals in four events, but had to miss the meet to play in the Crusaders’ soccer District championship game.

Instead of on the track, Tyler used that speed throughout the tournament to make runs down the edges of the field and put major pressure on defenders. She finished her junior year with more than 20 goals and 20 assists.

“Talia has a complete skill set, and that’s what makes her the best soccer player ever at this school,” said Dorsey. “She can turn it on and get up to her top speed so quickly that it catches defenders off-guard. Then she is smart enough to make the right decisions going to the goal.”

Smarts is another trait that runs through the Tyler family. Talia’s older brother, Ian, plays football at Columbia and her older sister, Annika, is a club soccer player at the University of San Diego.

Talia has maintained a 3.85 grade-point average while taking a steady diet of AP classes and being a four-year varsity starter in both basketball and soccer. She also has racked up more than 200 service hours during high school, many on spring break mission trips.

Her final intangible, which she first displayed as the starting point guard on MCC’s varsity basketball team four years ago as a freshman, is leadership. On a team with plenty of young talent, Tyler is the veteran the other girls look to in crucial situations.

“Looking back to freshman year and everything that we’ve been through together, it’s kind of surreal that now it’s just down to this final sport and this final season,” Tyler said. “It’s great getting this chance to play with my friends and see if we can really leave our mark. That’s our goal.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at kendra.tom@gmail.com with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Muskegon Catholic Central’s Talia Tyler (9) winds up to send the ball downfield during a game this spring. (Middle) Tyler (3) charges ahead during her heat of the 200 at the 2016 MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals. (Photos courtesy of Kristine Tyler.)

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.

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 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.)