Novi Seniors Go Out With 3rd Class A Win

November 18, 2017

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for Second Half

BATTLE CREEK – Two of the greatest athletes ever to compete for Novi High School finished two of the most memorable volleyball careers in school and state history Saturday at Kellogg Arena.

Setter and Miss Volleyball Award winner Erin O’Leary and outside hitter Abryanna Cannon led the Wildcats as they captured their third straight Class A volleyball title with a 25-23, 25-9, 25-23 victory over a young Bloomfield Hills Marian team in their last match as high school teammates before they face off as Big Ten rivals at the college level.

O’Leary is signed with University of Michigan, and Cannon is signed with Northwestern. Cannon finished her high school career with 18 kills and 15 defensive digs, while O’Leary had 33 assists and 11 kills to conclude her fourth trip to the Finals and third title run.

“I came in a few weeks before the start of school (junior year) and I went into the gym and I knew these players were special,’’ said Cannon, who moved from Traverse City West midway through her career. “I couldn’t have asked for more. It has been a great experience. Erin is just an incredible setter. She made things easy for me.’’

The Wildcats finished 57-3 to run coach Jennifer Cottrill’s record to 286-24-2 in six years guiding the program.

“I don’t know if I or the team understands the gravity of what we have just done,’’ said Cottrill. “They are just really good student-athletes. They deserve it. It’s amazing that they have accomplished what they had set out to do.’’

Marian (45-12-1) actually led 12-10 in the first game before the Wildcats reeled off three straight points to take a 14-12 lead.

When it reached 17-13, first-year Marian coach Lauren Duquette was forced to call a timeout. Her team got the score to 20-20 but couldn’t gain the advantage. A Cannon dink shot over the net ended a two-point win for the Wildcats.

“It was the first time in the tournament we played under pressure, and winning that first game was the difference,’’ said Cottrill.

Novi came out swinging in the second game, scoring eight of the first 12 points to force Duquette to again call a timeout.

Novi continued on to build a double-digit lead (19-7), with the Mustangs having no answer.

Cannon and Kathryn Ellison (who will next play at Kent State) kept pounding winners at the net while O’Leary kept the motor running with her all-around game.

The lead eventually swelled to 21-7 before Marian scored another point. An ace by Cannon ended the second game as the beleaguered Mustangs faced the inevitable.

But it was a loose group at the other end as O’Leary danced to “Don’t Stop Believing” and hugged teammates as she zeroed in on her third title.

“It’s about the team,’’ said O’Leary. “What makes it so much easier is that we focus on each other as a team. We’re a family. Our parents are family, and we are all so close.’’

Hanging on, Marian trailed 10-9 in the third game, then led 14-12 before another ace by Cannon started a rally for the Wildcats.

A soft spike by O’Leary gave the Wildcats a 19-18 lead. Marian made one last push, getting to within 22-21. But a Cannon block put Novi back within two points of the title, and moments later the Wildcats clinched it.

Ellison added 12 kills and 14 digs for Novi. Junior setter Maddie Dowd had 18 assists for Marian, which advanced to its first Final since 2013 by avenging two losses to Farmington Hills Mercy in the Semifinal.

“They were just so much taller than us,’’ said Duquette of taking on Novi’s hitters.

But noting the run, she added, “This is my first year here, and what my team has been able to accomplish in 3½ months … I may look normal, but I’m crazy and I put them through a lot.’’

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Novi’s Jaeda Porter tries to put a kill between Marian’s Christine Audette (8) and Maggie DePorre (2). (Middle) The Wildcats’ Erin O’Leary serves during her final match.

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.)