Novi Holds On to Claim Class A Again

November 19, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – At the start of the second set Saturday, just like many times this season, Novi senior Ally Cummings stood surrounded on the court by teammates who still have another season of high school volleyball ahead of them.

During those rotations, Cummings was the only player on the floor who knew what it was like for the Wildcats to finish a season not in the Class A championship match.

They played in their third straight Saturday, and as it should be, against one of their toughest opponents this fall in Rockford. But that made Novi only enjoy the afternoon more, as it won its second straight championship by downing the Rams 3-1.

Adding in this fall’s 53-1 record, the Wildcats are 158-10 over the last three seasons. Cummings, senior Emmy Robinson and junior Erin O’Leary have been the lineup’s constants throughout the run.

“It just really comes down to the chemistry on the team,” Cummings said. “If you have an amazing team with amazing players, but the chemistry is off, you’re not going to be successful. The past four years I’ve played here, it’s been like family for us. So I’m sure even when I graduate, and these people start to graduate as well, it’s still going to be as successful.”

Novi – top-ranked entering the postseason for the second year in a row – talks about creating its own pressure and blocking out the “outside noise” of others’ expectations.

Trying to match this season’s success would be an impressive goal.

The lone loss was to No. 2 Clarkston, 2-1, and the Wildcats gave up only seven sets this season – including the second of the championship match to Rockford. Only No. 6 Northville in the District Final also took a set from Novi during the postseason.

During coach Jennifer Cottrill’s first two years running the program, 2012 and 2013, Novi won league titles but lost to Northville in District Finals. 

“It’s overwhelming. (This success is) not something that you ever expect, not something that we ever really talk about,” Cottrill said. “We just try to stay in the moment. But if you take a step back, it’s amazing, and it’s all because of the players in the program who have changed the culture and have tremendous leadership skills, expectations of themselves and their teammates … and we’re a family.

“We love each other, from top to bottom, and we like to win. So that motivates you to keep winning, when you have that success.”

But Rockford didn't make adding to it easy Saturday.

The Rams (48-9-1) entered the postseason ranked No. 5 and had beaten four of the top 10 teams in Class A and the top two in Class B entering the weekend. Following junior setter Hailey Delacher, who had 43 assists, Rockford forced many of the 11 lead changes and 29 ties over the four sets before falling 25-23, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22.

Cottrill noted that Rockford’s quick sets and two strong middles in junior Olivia Rademacher (12 kills, five blocks) and senior Cassandra Smigel (11 kills, four blocks) gave her team the most trouble. Junior outside hitter Sara Majerle added 11 kills as well, and junior libero Mykayla Vallad had 27 digs.

“I think we are just a good team, and we are a very well-balanced team. Five good hitters and we play good defense, and I think we did a good job of blocking today as well,” said Rockford coach Kelly Delacher, also Hailey’s dad.

O’Leary had 33 assists, with junior Abryanna Cannon leading with 20 kills, Cummings adding 10 and four blocks and Robinson tallying seven blocks. Junior libero Claire Pinkerton had 21 digs.

In Cannon, O’Leary and Hailey Delacher, the Class A Final may have featured three candidates for next year’s Miss Volleyball Award – while setting up the potential for another narrative twist.

Novi faced Romeo in the 2014 Final and then again in 2015, losing the first time but winning the rematch. With both of Saturday’s finalists expected to return so much next fall, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them meet again with the championship on the line.

Combined, the teams graduate only nine seniors – five for Novi and four from Rockford.

“Those seniors provided us with great leadership, and we really got on their backs at the end of the season this year. They will be tough to replace,” Kelly Delacher said. “That being said, I have a great group of juniors and I’m excited about a couple of sophomores coming in. I feel like we can be competitive next year as well.”

Novi will be prepared.

“All they know is pressure. All they’ve known is that target on your back, everyone coming for you, you get everyone’s best game,” Cottrill said of her team. “So you get used to it, and you get stronger mentally playing with a target on your back. I’m not saying it’s easy. But you get accustomed to it.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Novi coach Jennifer Cottrill hoists the Class A championship trophy as her players surround her Saturday. (Middle) The Wildcats' Abryanna Cannon attempts to tip the ball over the net with Rockford's Olivia Rademacher (5) and Zoe Anderson (13) defending.

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.)