Already in Select Company, South Lyon's Tapp Has Chance to Chase Finals History

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

September 1, 2022

SOUTH LYON – Nobody could’ve blamed anyone at the 2019 MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Girls Golf Final if they looked at the scoreboard and thought, “Where did THAT come from?”

Greater DetroitIt’s hard enough for anyone to win an individual state title, but South Lyon’s Gabby Tapp managed to do so.

It’s even harder to win one as a freshman, but Tapp did just that.

If only the story had stopped there.

Tapp won as a freshman, only a few months after playing a full 18-hole round of golf for the first time.

Yes, the first time in her life.

“I would just go to the range and I got lessons, so I would work on my swing,” she said. “But I didn’t really play a whole lot.”

All of which made that Finals title as a freshman even more stunning.

“At that time, we didn’t have the online scoring, so I didn’t know how I was doing compared to everyone else,” Tapp said. “I remember getting off that 18th green and my coach came up to me and said, ‘You won.’ I was like, ‘What?’ That’s when I kind of realized I could go somewhere with (golf).”

Indeed, since that improbable triumph as a freshman, all Tapp has done is prove that it was no fluke.

Tapp tied for sixth at the LPD2 Final as a sophomore, and then won her second individual Finals title last year as a junior by shooting a two-day score of 144 (70-74) at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley.

Tapp was named to the all-state Super Team following last year and enters this fall as a legitimate Miss Golf Award candidate.

Despite two Finals individual titles, three top-10 finishes and contributing to a Finals team championship, everything did not come as easily as it may have seemed.

Tapp putts during her 2019 championship run at Forest Akers East. Her sophomore season in 2020 included that team championship and a top-10 individual finish, but also some difficulties.

“I felt like I was getting in trouble anywhere possible and I didn’t really know my swing,” she said. “But I felt like I had to go through that to get where I’m at now. Now I know what it’s like to struggle like that and come out of it stronger.”

Tapp did come out those struggles stronger, rebounding with a junior year that ended with her returning to the top of her division.

In October, she’ll try to join rare company by winning a third individual Finals title. Only 13 have accomplished the feat, and only six in Lower Peninsula competition.

Tapp figures to be a favorite again because she has gotten only better as her high school career has progressed, particularly with the driver.

“I have gotten a lot better off of the tee,” she said. “Driver was never really a strong suit of mine. I wasn’t sure which direction I was going to go. I’ve definitely improved that. Length and accuracy. I would say that’s helped me a lot because now I can reach par-5s in two a lot and have irons coming into those.”

South Lyon coach Dan Skatzka said that in addition to Tapp’s driving, her short game has also gotten better, which has complemented the mental fortitude she has always possessed.

This fall, Tapp broke the school record for a 9-hole score when she shot a 31, adding to her decorated career. Last season, she shot back-to-back rounds of 67 and 66 to twice break the school record for lowest 18-hole score.

“We’ve had a lot of great players at South Lyon,” Skatzka said. “About one-third of the seniors we’ve had here have gone on to play college golf. Gabby holds all the records. She basically has broken all the records.”

Tapp is still figuring out her college future, but she does want to play golf at the next level.

One thing is certain: After a great high school career, Tapp definitely can go somewhere in the game of golf.

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS (Top) South Lyon’s Gabriella Tapp blasts through a drive during last season’s LPD2 Final at Bedford Valley. (Middle) Tapp putts during her 2019 championship run at Forest Akers East. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)