Performance: Anchor Bay's Ally Gaunt

May 3, 2019

Ally Gaunt
New Baltimore Anchor Bay senior - Soccer

Anchor Bay’s three-year starting goalkeeper continued to build on her substantial legacy last week, tying the school career record with her 32nd shutout against then-No. 3 ranked Utica Eisenhower to earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” She became the school’s sole record holder the next game as Anchor Bay shut out Port Huron Northern 5-0 on Friday.

Gaunt tied and broke the record of 2015 graduate Emily Zweng, who went on to Oakland University, and with the 32nd shutout also earned a spot in the MHSAA record book. She’s now up to 29th all-time with 34 career shutouts and has led Anchor Bay to a combined 41-5-10 record over three seasons including 5-1-4 this spring. The Tars also have won two District titles with her guarding the net. In fact, Gaunt has never given up more than two goals in a game at the high school level – and in 13 games, she’s allowed just one – and she has a career goals-against average of 0.52.

Anchor Bay coach Kevin Grammens considers Gaunt one of the best keepers in Macomb County history, and she earned Division 1 all-state honorable mention as a sophomore and made the second team a year ago. When she’s not playing, she’s still in the game as a youth soccer referee and goalie trainer. Gaunt also played basketball as a freshman and sophomore on sub-varsity teams and carries a 3.7 grade-point average. She’s signed to continue her academic and soccer careers at Saginaw Valley State. A fan of numbers and math, she plans to major in accounting and finance and eventually become a certified public accountant. 

Coach Kevin Grammens said: “Ally is usually the first player to arrive at practice and the last to leave. She is a student of the game and true believer in the growth mindset. She soaks in the mental skills training that we teach in our program and intently trains the finer details of her position with her goalkeeper coach, Keith Jarema. She is humble and is first to acknowledge that she cannot set records on her own. We've played tremendous team defense the past three years in front of her and have had and currently have fantastic, selfless players willing to play defense to benefit the team.” 

Performance Point: It was a great week. It means a lot, but it’s not everything – to be fair, it’s just a record,” Gaunt said. “The season that we’ve had this year, it’s been a process. And to get that with this team, it means a lot. We graduated our back line – all four of them graduated last year, so we had to rebuild it. We had to start from scratch basically the first day of tryouts, and from then till now it’s grown tremendously.  We were ready for battle, and we definitely stepped up. I knew Coach Grammens had a plan, and we had to stick with it. And I trust him, and it worked out.

Success to the successor: “My sophomore and junior year (Zweng) came back for the District games and a few of the other games, and I talked to her. She gave me some pointers, and it was really beneficial just to hear it from another player that set the record here at Anchor Bay, (made the NCAA Tournament) at Oakland.”

At home in goal: “I love it back there. You can see the entire field. You can see the plays developing before they happen. Just (from) practice, you see it, what we work on, and when it shows in games it shows practice really helps. I can see in goal what we’re trying to do.”

Our time: “My communication is better than it was two years ago. My physical aspects are better than they were two years ago. Every day we’re working on both physical and mental stuff, and it’s very helpful to get something every single day that’s beneficial. Being a senior – there’s six of us, and we all want to do something great here. ‘Leave the jersey in a better place’ is our biggest motto on the team for the seniors, and I truly believe all six of us can do it and are doing it. … Coach Grammens here at Anchor Bay has helped me become the leader I am. We have a binder with a bunch of different articles on how to be mentally strong, and reading those and going through with him helping us individually to become a better person grows our leadership skills as well.”

Problem solver: “I like the structure of (math), knowing there’s not only one way to do a problem to get the correct answer. Within the team, within soccer, you have to be able to see a problem from more than one angle – if there’s two people on the team and something happens, you have to be able to see both angles to be a good leader and try to diffuse the situation. I believe math helps with that because with numbers, you can see it that way.” 

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard recognizes a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Past 2018-19 honorees

April 25: Kali Heivilin, Three Rivers softball - Read
March 28:
Rickea Jackson, Detroit Edison basketball - Read
March 21:
Noah Wiswary, Hudsonville Unity Christian basketball - Read
March 14:
Cam Peel, Spring Lake swimming - Read
March 7:
Jordan Hamdan, Hudson wrestling - Read
February 28:
Kevon Davenport, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling - Read
February 21:
Reagan Olli, Gaylord skiing - Read 
February 14:
Jake Stevenson, Traverse City Bay Reps hockey - Read
February 7: Molly Davis, Midland Dow basketball - Read
January 31:
Chris DeRocher, Alpena basketball - Read
January 24:
Imari Blond, Flint Kearsley bowling - Read
January 17: William Dunn, Quincy basketball - Read
November 29:
Dequan Finn, Detroit Martin Luther King football - Read
November 22: Paige Briggs, Lake Orion volleyball - Read
November 15:
Hunter Nowak, Morrice football - Read
November 8:
Jon Dougherty, Detroit Country Day soccer - Read
November 1:
Jordan Stump, Camden-Frontier volleyball - Read
October 25:
Danielle Staskowski, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep golf - Read
October 18:
Adam Bruce, Gladstone cross country - Read
October 11: Ericka VanderLende, Rockford cross country - Read
October 4:
Kobe Clark, Schoolcraft football - Read
September 27: Jonathan Kliewer, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern soccer - Read
September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Anchor Bay goalkeeper Ally Gaunt sends a kick downfield during a game this season. (Middle) Gaunt launches another toward waiting teammates. (Photos courtesy of the Anchor Bay girls soccer program.)

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.)