Reese Volleyball Heroes Hope to Have Rockets' Hoops Firing Next

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 29, 2021

Reese girls basketball coach Josh Pickell had never been happier to have low turnout through the first two weeks of practice.

The Rockets were down to four varsity players and had to combine with the junior varsity to run full sessions as the school’s volleyball team was making its Cinderella run to the MHSAA Division 3 Volleyball Finals title two weekends ago.

“As a coach, I just have to realize that the girls are going to need some time after doing what they did,” Pickell said. “It’s an incredible feat. It was kind of good for our entire program, with some other girls getting the extra practice time and seeing how cool it is for a girls team like the volleyball team to go that far. It was good for our freshman team and our JV team getting that time.”

All but two of the 11 players Reese took to Kellogg Arena are basketball players, including returning all-state honorees Maddi Osantowski and Aydan Dalak, who were at the forefront of the Nov. 20 title win against Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central. 

“I’m just hoping the momentum we had in volleyball, because we have so many girls that play volleyball and basketball, that it would just shift into basketball,” Osantowski said. “Just having that many girls to be able to shift to different sports, I think it shows how athletic the whole team is.”

The multi-sport seniors are taking slightly different approaches to getting into basketball, but neither is taking much time. Osantowski planned to return to practice Friday, giving herself less than a week after recording 71 kills and attempting more than 200 attacks during the final weekend of the volleyball season. Dalak, meanwhile, was on the basketball court Monday. She had been at previous practices, too, just not participating.

Reese volleyball“I just sat and watched sometimes. I just wanted to see how the team was looking,” said Dalak, who was the setter on the volleyball team and plays point guard for the basketball team. “I was a little tired (Monday), and I’m usually not. But I’m not used to running back and forth for 30 minutes. I did OK. It was fine.”

Playing multiple sports is the norm at Reese, a school with fewer than 300 students. It’s necessary to keep multiple programs strong, and the coaches work together to ensure that happens.

“I really encourage doing multiple sports,” Reese volleyball coach Angie Compton said. “Last spring, I called the basketball coach and said, ‘Let’s do our youth camp together.’ That way, hopefully more kids will do both of them. Then, hopefully, you’re keeping more girls thinking that both sports are great.”

What Osantowski – who also plays softball – and Dalak – who has played softball but plans to run track next spring – are doing in terms of success, however, is not normal anywhere. 

Dalak was named second-team all-state by the Michigan High School Volleyball Coaches Association, a year after earning honorable mention in the sport. She was named honorable mention all-state in basketball as a junior.

Osantowski was a first-team all-state selection in volleyball this season and honorable mention in 2020. She was second-team all-state in basketball as a junior and honorable mention as a sophomore, and she was named first-team all-state in softball as a junior, as well.

“If not all of the athletes are playing (multiple sports), the teams aren’t going to be as good,” Osantowski said. “I actually do not play travel. I did travel softball and basketball in middle school, and I did one year of travel volleyball. It’s kind of hard to transition (from sport to sport). I just focus all on one thing in the season, because I know I have to do it for my school.”

Neither Osantowski nor Dalak have made a college choice, but their mindset is pretty similar. Both are leaning toward playing volleyball collegiately, which is a change from years past when they thought basketball would be the route to the next level.

Reese volleyballThey will juggle that process with what looks to be a promising basketball season. The Rockets are coming off a 12-2 finish, and while their postseason run was ended in the District Semifinal, the loss came against eventual Division 3 semifinalist Hemlock. A familiar connection will lead the way, as the passes from Dalak to Osantowski that proved so successful on the volleyball court are pretty common on the basketball court, as well, with Osantowski’s role as a shooter. 

“I’m like her little assister,” Dalak said with a laugh. “She stands in the corner and I’m good at driving and kicking it out to her.”

Just like in volleyball, they’ll be surrounded by a strong group of their classmates, including Josie Johnson. The Reese libero was an honorable mention all-state selection in volleyball, and is a standout guard on the basketball team. 

“We’ve already talked about it, we think we can do this for basketball, too, but we have to work hard like we did for volleyball,” Dalak said. “We need to have fun and keep that energy going into basketball.”

But the volleyball title has sparked belief in more than just the players who won it. That's a new feeling for a school that had one Finals title prior to Saturday – won in boys cross country in 1964.

“I think even for the boys basketball team, I was talking to them today, and said, ‘You know, you guys can win a state championship, too,’” Osantowski said. “I think people can see now that we can do this, so they think it can happen more, or at least they can go farther.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Reese teammates Maddi Osantowski (left) and Aydan Dalak are hoping to carry their volleyball success into basketball season this winter. (Middle) Osantowski serves during the Division 3 Final win over Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central. (Below) Dalak sets up another teammate against the Kestrels. (Top photo courtesy of the Reese girls basketball program; volleyball photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for

April 5, 2024

It won’t be hard for Jayden Marlatt to remember opening day on the softball field from any of her four years at Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAs a freshman, she missed the opener due to needing to quarantine. Her sophomore and junior years started on the road because the Cardinals’ field was under construction.  

This season the Cardinals will open up — weather permitting — on their brand-new field, hosting Mio on Monday, April 8.  Marlatt is slated to be the starting pitcher again and add to her school record collection.

While Johannesburg-Lewiston is looking forward to playing on the new diamond, Marlatt and her teammates have high hopes of finishing the season almost 200 miles south. They’re looking to get back to Michigan State University – the site of the Division 4 Semifinals and Final.

The Cards have had their sites on that goal since they fell 4-2 to Mendon in last year’s Semifinal at Secchia Stadium. The loss ended a 30-4-1 campaign that saw the Cardinals play every game on the road for a second consecutive year, but come up only one victory short of a first championship game appearance.

The trip to East Lansing also came after the Cards won the program’s first District title since 2008 and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1981.

“It has been a long two seasons on the road,” said eighth-year head coach Kim Marlatt, noting the team utilized a Little League field for practices during the stretch. “They’ve been putting in a lot of work in the offseason, so it is excited to get going.”

Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. The new field isn’t the only new things this spring. The Cardinals will have a junior varsity team for the first time during the Marlatt’s tenure. The JV squad is coached by Ryan Marlatt, who has been serving the program the past eight years as assistant coach. He also has been the head girls basketball coach at JoBurg the past two seasons.

The Marlatt coaches are the proud parents of Jayden, who continues to garner recognition as perhaps the greatest athlete in Johannesburg-Lewiston’s history. 

The three-sport star had a huge hand in all that JoBurg accomplished last season leading the team in batting average (.670), home runs (13) and runs batted in (61). As the team’s ace pitcher, she collected 249 strikeouts and compiled a 1.32 ERA.

“Jayden has put in the hard work,” Kim pointed out.  “She is a very humble athlete. ‘She doesn’t like to talk about herself. She likes to compete, and she likes to be on the top of her game for her teammates.”

Jayden has been named all-conference and all-state in softball, basketball and volleyball nearly every season over her four years at JoBurg. She’s led her teams to Ski Valley Conference, District and Regional titles along the way.

She’s also been named Player of the Year by multiple publications. And she’s a front runner to be voted the Most Valuable Player of the Ski Valley Conference in softball. Earlier this year, league coaches voted her the MVP for both basketball and volleyball.  

“The Ski Valley never used to vote on an MVP,” Ryan Marlatt said. “Hopefully she can add the triple crown and get softball this year.”

Jayden Marlatt, who has played all three sports all four years, acknowledged softball is perhaps her most treasured, and she’ll continue in that sport at Ferris State. Her career total of more than 500 strikeouts, and her 14 home runs last season, are both JoBurg school records. "I like them all but probably softball,” she confirmed when asked to name her favorite sport.

She averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and four steals per game this winter helping the Cards basketball team to a conference runner-up finish. She was key to JoBurg's ability to put a 12-game winning streak together, and she topped the 1,000-point career mark along the way.

Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season.Her outstanding senior year on the basketball court and this spring’s possibilities nearly vanished as the volleyball season ended.

She suffered what looked to be a serious lower-leg injury in the final game of the JoBurg volleyball season. “She finished in the emergency room,” Kim Marlatt said.  

Diagnosed a high ankle sprain, it was an aggravation to an injury from her junior year in basketball. She wasn’t quite at 100 percent on the basketball court this season until the holiday break. She’s starting the softball season healthy, though.

Before the injury, Jayden led the Cards to their third volleyball conference championship over the last four years. After becoming JoBurg's all-time kills leader during her junior season, and with many of her teammates from her first three seasons graduating, Jayden had to fill a variety of roles while anchoring the offense from her outside hitter spot.

She ended up leading the team in both kills with 421 and digs, with 431, in her final season on the volleyball court. And she is listed among MHSAA’s all-time leaders in kills for a single match and career.

It’s more than Marlatt’s stats that stand out for Kristine Peppin, the school’s volleyball coach the past 15 years.

“It is not about the size of the school or the size of the player, it’s the heart that they have inside,” she proclaimed. “This girl would be a successful player on whatever team she was on. 

“Yes we’re a small school, small town,” she continued. “That kind of leadership and heart and drive to be the best is what’s given her that success.”

Marlatt’s work ethic is second to none, Peppin noted. She never saw Jayden give less than a “1,000” percent in practice or games in her career. 

Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt.“She’s a super hard worker and extremely modest for the kind of skill she possesses and the success she’s had,” Peppin said. “Her teammates think it’s amazing to be on her team.”

Marlatt’s volleyball skills caught the eye of at least one of her conference opponents’ coaches back in junior high. Ron Stremlow was performing one of his many coaching duties for Fife Lake Forest Area when he first saw Jayden on the volleyball court.

“I could tell then this girl was somebody special,” said Stremlow, who became one of the winningest coaches in state volleyball history with the Warriors. “When she got in high school, it just took off.

“She puts the time into it, and she works hard,” Stremlow continued. “Kids like that get what they deserve – they work for it.”

Stremlow, now retired, also acknowledged he’s enjoyed being able to watch the hard-throwing Marlatt on the softball field the last couple of seasons as Forest Area hosted the Cardinals consecutively due to JoBurg’s lack of a home field.

It’s something he’ll have to travel to do this year though, as JoBurg is scheduled to host the Warriors on April 15.

The Cardinals also will host a Regional on their new field June 8. The winners of District play at Rogers City, Harbor Springs, St. Ignace and Gaylord St. Mary will participate.

To play in the Regional, the Cards will have to emerge from the Rogers City District featuring the host Hurons, Atlanta, Hillman, Onaway, and Posen.

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Jayden Marlatt drives a pitch during softball season. (2) Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. (3) Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season. (4) Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt. (Action shots by Dylan Jespersen/Petoskey News-Review; family photo by Breya Domke.)