Bronson Becomes 4th to Complete 4-Peat

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 17, 2018

BATTLE CREEK – With one set standing between them and a fourth straight MHSAA championship Saturday, several members of the Bronson volleyball team spent the break doing the “Cha Cha Slide.” 

They were very clearly comfortable in Kellogg Arena. And while a game Unionville-Sebewaing team made them earn it, the Vikings left their second home with that fourth title, defeating the Patriots 25-19, 25-19, 25-23 in the Division 3 Final. 

“This team is totally different than our teams of the past,” Bronson coach Jean LaClair said. “They don’t get excited, and we just kind of play calm. We have that calm demeanor all the time, and that sometimes worries me. Even today, they weren’t excited, they just took care of business. That’s one of the things that makes them special.” 

Bronson (58-6) became the fourth program in MHSAA history to win at least four volleyball titles in a row, joining Portage Northern (1992-95), Marysville (1997-2004) and Battle Creek St. Philip (1992-95 and 2007-14). 

For this group of seniors, however, it started well before they were freshmen. 

“I think it really makes you appreciate the team, because we’ve seen so many great players go through this program,” senior Ashton Wronikowski said. “Kiera (Lasky), Jolie (Smoker), me and Paris (Outwater) managed, so when we were 5th and 6th-graders we were on this team. We were riding buses everywhere, we were going to practices, we were in this family since we were in junior high. 

“Seeing so many great players go through this program and how the team chemistry is, there’s no words for it. It’s incredible how so many people can just come together and unite for a common goal.” 

Lasky and Wronikowski played in all four title victories, and as Lasky astutely pointed out during the post-match press conference, she doesn’t know any other feeling than winning at Kellogg – although there was something different about this one. 

“This one is just really bittersweet, I guess,” she said. “Going out with a win and going out with my favorite people. It’s exciting.” 

While the Vikings won in a sweep, USA (44-5-1) did make things exciting throughout the match, building multiple leads that required long Bronson runs to overtake. Bronson went on a 12-1 run to take a lead and pull away late in the second set, and trailed 12-6 in the third before gathering itself and putting the match away. 

“I’m happy with the way we played; it just wasn’t our day today,” USA coach Teresa Rose said. “This is our first time being (in the Final), and maybe the atmosphere of it, we just couldn’t capitalize sometimes on getting to their attacks and defending as well as we could have. They played with their hearts, and I’m proud of the way they played.” 

In the third set, LaClair didn’t have a chance to address her team after it fell behind 12-6.

Lasky took care of that.

While the senior libero didn’t want to repeat what she said in that huddle, it clearly worked. 

“I kind of told (LaClair) ‘Just go away. I’ve got this,’” Lasky said. “We really came out of it, got a couple points back, and then after that we were like, ‘OK, next ball, that last play doesn’t matter.’ That got the job done.” 

Lasky finished with 14 digs and five assists in her final match for the Vikings, while junior Keona Salesman led the attack with 19 kills. Smoker added 13 kills, Wronikowski had six, and Meagan Lasky had 35 assists.  

Rylee Zimmer led USA with 16 kills and 10 digs in her final match for the Patriots. Nichole Schember had 28 assists, and Maci Montgomery had 14 digs. 

“I think (the Finals appearance) will do a lot for our program,” Rose said. “I think there’s a lot of kids that want to come and play like Rylee and Nichole and Grace (Williamson), and they see them in the community and they want to be like them eventually. They want to be state champions or runners-up. I think it’s good for our program. Good for our community and our school.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Bronson walls off the top of the net during its Division 3 Final win over Unionville-Sebewaing on Saturday. (Middle) The Vikings hoist a championship trophy for the fourth straight season.

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.)