Performance: Buchanan's Franki Strefling

September 16, 2016

Franki Strefling
Buchanan senior – Volleyball

Strefling has served as a captain of Buchanan’s volleyball team all four years of high school as the Bucks have risen to join the state’s elite. Buchanan is ranked No. 3 in Class B this week coming off a championship at the Battle Creek Lakeview Invitational, where the Bucks downed among others reigning Class C champion Bronson, annual Class A power Temperance Bedford and Class B No. 9 Harper Creek – the team that ended Buchanan’s last two seasons at MHSAA Regionals. Strefling earned the Michigan National Guard “Performance of the Week” after totaling 89 kills, eight blocks, 16 aces and 63 digs during Saturday's tournament, the second this season where she was named Most Valuable Player of the event.

The 5-foot-10 outside hitter has 350 kills, 220 digs, 30 blocks and a .520 hitting percentage this season after setting a school single-season kill record with more than 800 a year ago in making the Class B all-state third team. Buchanan is 21-1 after Wednesday’s win over Comstock, and Strefling helped the Bucks break their program record for wins during both the 2014 and then 2015 seasons. The Bucks have lost only 23 matches total during her four years.

Strefling grew up in the gym, thanks in large part to her father Vince Strefling, currently the volleyball coach at Glen Oaks Community College and previously the coach at five high schools including Niles Brandywine, Dowagiac and Coloma. Franki has committed to sign with Eastern Michigan University, where she’ll study to become a nurse practitioner – she carries a 3.57 grade-point average. Strefling also participated in track & field for a season, as a sophomore, competing in the 800, 1,600, pole vault and long jump.

Coach Lisa Holok said: “Since Franki walked into the gym freshman year, I knew she was going to be a special athlete. She has been a dominant leading force for this program for four years and is having a fantastic senior season. Without a doubt, she is one of the best players in the state and she has proved that time and time again. Franki's high level of play dominates opponents with her powerful arm swing and jumping ability; she also has the ability to pick apart a team’s defense with her court awareness. Franki is a really aggressive server and through the years has also brought her defense up to another level. Her overall ball control and knowledge on the court is bar none. Franki makes everyone around her better and raises their games by her intense play and passion for the game. She is a work horse and has spent countless hours in the gym training her whole life for a sport which she loves. We are so proud of the leader that she is on and off the court and the joy of the game and intensity she brings to our practices, our games, to this team and program. She is so deserving of all her success.”

Performance Point: “Saturday was a very long, exhausting day,” Strefling said. “Honestly, with the training we do during practice, I think we’ve gotten a lot more intense during practice. We’re doing more mental strengthening. We’re doing a lot more conditioning. That’s what helped us more. After 12 hours, teams were exhausted, but I think we were more in shape. ... Throughout the whole day, I think I played pretty consistently, and I’m proud of that being it was such a long day.”

Seasoned veteran: “I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is how to be a better leader, connect with my team. How to be more than just teammates; how to become a family. I’ve learned their strengths and weaknesses, how they like to be told what they’re doing wrong. I’ve just learned about them individually, just learned with them. We have seven seniors who have been up (on varsity) for four years now, and that helps a lot.”

Serving notice: "Our community has started to appreciate (our success) more. We’re getting more people at games, and it means more personally that the work we’re putting in is finally getting recognized. On social media, lots of people have started sharing everything. It kinda started last year … usually we’re the small school; nobody pays attention to us. But we’re making a name for ourselves and people are recognizing us. It’s awesome."

Following Dad: "My dad is really everything I’ve become. Ever since I could walk, I’ve been in the gym with his teams. Sometimes I’ll look up in the stands and he’ll be telling me what I’m doing wrong, what I need to fix. It’s a reminder constantly of what I need to be doing – (and) I always love it. When I’m struggling especially, when he’s there cheering it’s such a great feeling, that I’m making him proud."

Strefling sharp: “I think the best part of my game would be my mental stability. We can get down in games, like this weekend we were down 15-2 and came all the way back. Just being mentally strong, against a team that took from us three years now, I told (my teammates) we need to stop. We need to get back in the groove, and don’t worry about the score. Do the basics. Do what we train for.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Previous 2016-17 honorees:
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Franki Strefling and her Buchanan teammates are ranked No. 3 in Class B this week. (Middle) Strefling watches as a spike falls for a point during a recent match. (Photos courtesy of the South Bend Tribune/Michael Caterina.)

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.)