Lakewood Leader Joins 1,000-Win Club

September 27, 2017

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

LAKE ODESSA – Kellie Rowland doesn’t sugarcoat anything when it comes to the hundreds of players she has coached and mentored over 23 seasons.

The longtime Lakewood High School volleyball coach lets players know exactly what she thinks, and it’s a style that has served her well in helping produce one of the most successful programs in the state.

“I’m a highly energetic person, and I’m very black and white,” Rowland said. “I tell it just the way it is, and the girls appreciate that. They would much rather know than trying to guess how I’m feeling.”

Rowland recently joined an elite class of coaches after recording her 1,000th victory on Sept. 9 at the East Kentwood Invitational with a 2-0 win over Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

She is one of only 12 coaches statewide to reach the 1,000 win plateau. Jodi Manore of Temperance-Bedford tops the list and had 1,927 victories entering this season.

Several of Rowland’s former players were in attendance to witness the coaching milestone.

“One thousand wins is a lot of wins, but more than that it’s been the relationships,” Rowland said. “All the girls that came back that evening, and seeing them again as adults and parents and professionals, meant more to me than any single victory.”

Rowland entered the season with a 981-149 record in her 22 seasons at the helm; she led the Vikings from 1991-2002 and then took the program back over in 2009. Her youngest son, Cameron, clued her in to how close she was.

“I don’t keep track,” she said. “I always have to look up my wins and losses because I truly believe in one season at a time and one match at a time. My youngest son reminded me of how many I needed or I would not have known that.”

Lakewood athletic director Mike Quinn said Rowland’s dedication and commitment to her players has had a profound effect on the program.

“Her coaching goes beyond the wins she has accumulated,” he said. “She just has a rapport with all of the girls and she is such a student of the game that she is involved in. I believe she would be just as successful no matter what sport she coached. She just happened to fall into volleyball.

“Kellie is one of the most competitive people you’ll ever meet, but she prepares so well that winning becomes a by-product of everything else that they do. She cares so much about Lakewood volleyball and the impact that it has on our community.”

During her career, the Vikings have won countless league championships, in addition to 10 MHSAA Regional titles, three Finals runner-up finishes and a Class B championship in 2012.

They’ve reached the Finals in three of the past five seasons.

“I’ve been real fortunate,” Rowland said. “I’ve had just dedicated athletes. I can’t say that I’ve had Big Ten recruits, but they work so hard every day to achieve the ultimate goal of trying to win a state championship.”

Multiple past standouts have followed their Lakewood mentor into coach. Chelsea Lake finished her career in 2010 as a Miss Volleyball Award candidate playing middle for the Vikings, and took what she learned from Rowland into her playing career at Cornerstone University. She’s now an assistant coach for the

“I wouldn't be where I am today without her or have had the volleyball career I did if she wasn't my coach,” Lake said. “People who have never had her as a coach fear her and think she is too intense, but in reality she cares so much about her players and believes in them. That passion and love for them (is) why she pushes every single one of her players to be the best they can be. Why do something half-heartedly?

“She demands the most out of you, day in and day out, and by the end of practice you've given more than you ever thought you could,” Lake added, recalling changing shirts midway through every practice because the first was soaked with sweat. “She instills confidence in her players to the point you can walk into any gym and know you worked 10 times harder than anyone else in that gym and deserve to win.”

The buy-in starts early. Lake recalled as a junior starting alongside another junior and four freshmen, with a junior defensive specialist and a fifth freshman coming off the bench. Those freshmen went on to make up the nucleus of Lakewood’s Class B title-winning team in 2012.

“Kellie has built the Lakewood program from the ground up. She gets the young girls to buy into the program, and by the time they're freshmen they're better than most other schools' JV and varsity players,” Lake said. “Therefore, when they're seniors, they're college-type players.

“She knows how to develop kids and as long as Kellie is at the helm, that program will continue to grow, dominate, and flourish under her.”

Senior Lisa Hewitt said Rowland maintains high expectations for every team.

“She never expects anything less than perfection from us,” she said. “She always demands us to be our best 100 percent of the time. She is definitely deserving of her 1,000 wins.”

And Erica Potter, another of six seniors on this year’s squad, was happy to be a part of a special moment for Rowland.

“I think we were all very proud of her for reaching that great achievement, and she’s a great coach,” Potter said. “She’s always pushing us to be our best every day at practice, and she makes us work hard no matter what.”

This year’s team is vying for another trip to the MHSAA Finals after falling short in the Class B championship match a year ago against North Branch.

Lakewood entered this week ranked third in Class B, boasting an impressive 31-4 mark.

“They are playing well, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us,” Rowland said. “We have a new setter on the court after Gabi (Shellenbarger) graduated and we had her for four years. That setter spot is so crucial to a team, so we are still working through a lot of that.”

The seniors understand the path to the Finals is a process.

“We definitely talk about making it to the state finals because we’ve been there twice, and that’s certainly our goal, but we try to take it one match at a time,” Potter said. “We want to look at the big picture, but we can’t get too ahead of ourselves.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Lakewood coach Kellie Rowland celebrates with her team after last season’s Class B Semifinal win over Cadillac. (Middle) Rowland provides instruction during the first set of the 2012 championship match victory.

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.)