Bronson Bounces Back to Clinch Repeat

November 19, 2016

By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half

BATTLE CREEK – Last year, the Bronson volleyball team swept its way to the Class C championship.

The Vikings found out early Saturday that this would be different, as Brown City offered an early wakeup call by winning the first game of their MHSAA Final match at Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena.

The Green Devils looked to have Bronson on the ropes again, leading for a good portion of the second set, including by three points late.

But behind the solid serving of sophomore libero Kiera Lasky, the Vikings fought back to win that second game with a late surge, on the way to claiming their second straight and third overall MHSAA championship, 23-25, 25-22, 25-11, 25-19.

Lasky had five straight service winners during the second set to help her team gain the momentum.

"Kiera is a great server, and she is a great libero," Bronson coach Jean LaClair said. "She is a competitor, she is a gamer and goes hard every game. She is not afraid of competition."

Luckily LaClair has a lineup full of gamers, including her two senior leaders, middle hitter Jill Pyles and outside hitter Allison Sikorski. They took control of the match after the Vikings got back into it at the end of Game 2.

Those two, along with freshman outside hitter Keona Salesman, hovered around the net and let Bronson cruise through the final two games.

Pyles said the early deficit was definitely a wakeup call, but still had confidence in her team.

"Sometimes we start out pretty slow, and I wasn't upset. I just said that game is over with, we have the next one," Pyles said. "I just knew all we had to do was play our game and get that first one out of our mind."

And that game is solid serving, passing and attacking the net. Sikorski led the team with 13 kills, followed by Pyles and Salesman with 12 each.

"We have such good passers on our team, it was just a matter of communication," Pyles said. "At the beginning we were struggling, but then we started talking to each other."

LaClair, whose team finished with a 50-9-6 record, knew it was a matter of time before her talented athletes started to play.

"I told the girls (after Game 1) that they were playing really well, and we hadn't shown up yet," LaClair said. "I don't think (the start) was shocking, because they are a good team. (Brown City outside hitter Becki Krause) had a great match against us. We struggled to stop her, and did I wish we would have dropped one? No, but it wasn't shocking to me, either.

"These kids play well from behind," she added. "I still feel the pressure was on them, not us, because we weren't playing for last year, we were playing for this year. We weren't worried about last year. We didn't care we were the defending champions."

Krause did have a great match for the Green Devils with 12 kills and 12 digs, but it wouldn’t be enough for Brown City, which took one step further this year after losing in the Semifinals in 2015.

"We just had a couple of mental lapses in that second game," said Brown City coach Jenna Welke, whose team ended its year 45-10-5 and was making its first appearance in an MHSAA Final. "We were rolling and feeling good at the end of (Game 1) there, but then we had a few service errors that got into our head a little bit. They are a great serving team, we knew that coming in, and we knew we needed to limit their runs. But we just got a little frazzled there at the (end of Game 2)."

A teary-eyed Krause was happy for her team's run to its first Finals appearance. She just wished the Green Devils could have kept building on that early lead.

"I'm really proud of how far we made it," Krause said. "It didn't end how we wanted it to, but like coach said, the program is going to do great things in the future."

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Bronson's Kiana Mayer (10) keeps a rally alive while Brown City's Becki Krause (3) prepares to receive. (Middle) Bronson's Keona Salesman (8) and Brown City's Alexia Mason meet at the net.

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.)