High 5s - 6/19/12

June 21, 2012

The final High 5s of 2011-12 go to a pair of Ishpeming Westwood golfers who led their team to a rare feat of four straight Finals championships, and perhaps the most unexpected team champion of the spring season -- the Dansville softball team, which downed reigning champion Petersburg-Summerfield in the Division 4 championship game.

Berkley LaFreniere
Ishpeming Westwood senior

LaFreniere completed her fourth and final season on the Westwood golf team this spring by helping the Patriots to a fourth-straight MHSAA title. She shot a 90 to finish individual runner-up at the Division 2 Final to teammate Megan Manninen. LaFreniere also was a forward on the basketball team and played No. 1 doubles for the tennis team that ended the fall with a third-straight Upper Peninsula Division 2 championship. Three of the golf titles were in Division 2, while the 2010 championship came in Division 1.

Winning ways: "It takes a lot of practice. Obviously the time you put in is what gets you the best results. But I also think it's about having fun."

I learned the most about golf from: "My dad (Paul) is a big golfer. We've had a membership at Wawonowin (Country Club) since I was really little. I would say maybe 10 years old (is when I started), maybe even younger."

If I could play with three others: "Rory (McIlroy) from the PGA, Tiger Woods just because he's the best known, and probably Jack Nicklaus. I just always hear about him when I'm watching golf. They always compare things to him."

Up next: LaFreniere will attend the University of Michigan and study one of the sciences, perhaps biochemistry, on the way to becoming a pediatric oncologist. "When they find a cure for cancer, I want to be part of that."

(Click to read more.)

Megan Manninen
Ishpeming Westwood senior

Manninen, with LaFreniere, also completed her fourth and final season on the Westwood golf team as part of the Patriots' fourth-straight MHSAA Upper Peninsula Finals winner. Manninen shot an 87 to also win her second-straight and third total UP Division 2 individual championship. A point guard on the basketball team, she'll signed to play hoops this fall at Lake Superior State University.

I learned the most about golf from: "My dad (Kevin Manninen). He's the manager of Wawonowin Country Club and was the manager as Marquette Golf Course. He played at Oakland University and in a couple of U.S. Open qualifiers."

If I could play with three others: "My dad, Jame (Reichardt, her uncle who died May 14) and my grandpa (Harold Reichardt)."

My favorite golfer to watch: "Rory McIlroy. I enjoyed watching him last year in the U.S. Open. He was new, and he was trying to win for his dad because it was Father's Day. I enjoyed watching him a lot." 

My favorite to watch play hoops: "Skylar Diggins, the point guard for Notre Dame. I like her control and leadership."

Up next: Manninen will get the chance to contribute immediately for the Lakers' basketball team, and will major in pre-med with hopes of becoming a physician assistant. "I want to help people, and when I was down at U-M (to visit her uncle at the hospital) I saw a lot of opportunities to do that."

(Click to read more.)  

Dansville softball

On Friday, the Aggies won their first MHSAA Semifinal. On Saturday, the finished the weekend with the Division 4 championship. Dansville was in its third trip to Bailey Park over the last four seasons, and defeated top-ranked and two-time reigning champion Petersburg-Summerfield, 3-2. Not only was it the first softball championship in school history, but also the first MHSAA title in any girls sport. The Aggies had entered the postseason ranked No. 9 and finished this spring 31-5.

This spring's previous honorees

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.)