Despite Challenge of New League, Adrian Madison Continuing on Title Track

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

October 24, 2023

ADRIAN – Shopping. Dinner. Ice Cream.  

Southeast & BorderThat might be the secret formula that has the Adrian Madison volleyball program on the brink of winning its eighth consecutive league championship. 

“The first week of the season, we went to Houghton Lake,” said Madison senior and four-year starter Jillian Kendrick. “We stayed there three or four days in a house. As a team, we went shopping and were together all the time. That was a really good time for us. We bonded. 

“Now, we all kind of hang out outside of practice. We just find little ways, here and there, go to dinner or get ice cream. We find ways to stay together.” 

That trip to Houghton Lake, which included a volleyball tournament, was the springboard to another great season for Heather Lanning’s Trojans. Madison is 36-8-3 overall heading into the Lenawee County Athletic Association jamboree Tuesday. The Trojans are 11-0 in conference play and can wrap up the league title with two victories. 

League titles have become the norm for Madison. The Trojans won the last seven Tri-County Conference championships – with Lanning, who took over in 2021, the program’s third coach during the run – going undefeated in league play several of those years. This fall, however, Madison moved to the LCAA, a larger conference in southeast Michigan. 

“It’s a very tough volleyball league,” Lanning said. “A lot of our competition has been tough. We play Clinton, Onsted, and Dundee Tuesday, which are three of the toughest teams. They’ve taken a set from us every time we’ve played them. Clinton beat us in a tournament.  

“We knew this year was going to be difficult, but we have buckled down the last few weeks. Our No. 1 goal was to win the LCAA. We are close to that.” 

Coach Heather Lanning took over the program in 2021 and has continued the varsity’s league title run.Lanning said the difference in the leagues is the consistent intensity. 

“The intensity is high,” she said. “I thought we were going to be good with so many returning players, but I did not necessarily expect us to be 11-0. This is what we’ve been striving for.” 

Lanning is a Britton graduate in Lenawee County who got the coaching bug from her dad, former Britton football coach and athletic director Randy Salisbury. She started her coaching career as a middle school coach at Britton and moved up. She became the Madison junior varsity coach while the varsity was in the middle of the streak of winning TCC titles. When the previous varsity coach, Kelsey Cortright, stepped down due to a job shift, Lanning was named the head coach. 

The league championships have continued. 

“She’s great,” Kendrick said. “I like a coach that is about volleyball and helps you improve in volleyball but also makes it fun. We can have a serious practice but laugh and enjoy our time. She is focused on team bonding a lot and being one as a team.” 

Lanning said she’s not afraid to have a little fun at practice. 

“I like to laugh,” she said. “I like to have fun. If they are not having fun, it’s not worth it to me. I want to make sure the girls are having fun.” 

The Trojans can be disciplined, too.  

“We have a lot of dedicated players,” Lanning said. “We work hard in the offseason and all summer long. They know what the expectations are and the goals. We start young and we have a lot of girls who play club, who just love the sport of volleyball. Most of my players on the varsity team don’t just pick up a ball once a year during the season. They play year-round.” 

Madison has eight returning seniors, including Kendrick, who recently recorded assist No. 3,000 in her career. 

Kendrick celebrates her 3,000th career assist.“A lot of people get 2,000 assists in a career, but 3,000 is a pretty big deal,” Lanning said.  

Kendrick is a leader on and off the court, Lanning said. 

“She’s been captain on the court for two years,” she said. “She brings the team together. She boosts confidence in the team and helps the younger girls along. She has a heart of gold.” 

In addition to bringing back eight seniors, Lanning also brought up freshman Lilly Pharion and sophomore Kianna McKinney to the team.  

“Jillian spends time with them,” Lanning said. “All of the girls do.” 

Kendrick said she wants the younger players to be comfortable on the team. 

“I know when I was a freshman, I was shy and scared,” she said. “It was intimidating. I try and put more thought into making them feel welcome and more confident.” 

Seniors like Veronica Flores, Courtney Gauna, Tatum Wilson, and Caylan Sower have made huge impacts on the team this year as well. 

“Tatum is in the top four in kills in the county. Veronica and Caylan dominate in the back. Kianna is a defensive specialist who reads the floor well. We have weapons,” Lanning said. “I knew going into the season we had something special, but it's still tough to keep it going. We didn’t know exactly what to expect from the LCAA.” 

Kendrick said the team just keeps staying together and improving. 

“We definitely knew the competition was going to be good, and it would be a challenge,” she said. “We just go into every game wanting to win and maintain that mindset. We like the challenge.” 

Doug DonnellyDoug 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) Adrian Madison’s Jillian Kendrick (4) lines up to pass during a match this season. (Middle) Coach Heather Lanning took over the program in 2021 and has continued the varsity’s league title run. (Below) Kendrick celebrates her 3,000th career assist. (Top and middle photos by Deloris Clark-Osborne; below photo courtesy of the Madison athletic department.)

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.)