Performance: Novi's Ally Cummings

November 23, 2016

Ally Cummings
Novi senior - Volleyball

As the lone four-year varsity player on Class A champion Novi's roster, the 5-foot-11 Cummings has played a special role in helping the program rise to elite. Cummings – the Wildcats' right-side hitter and the state's Miss Volleyball Award runner-up this fall – finished a memorable high school career by leading Novi to a second straight Class A title last week to earn the Michigan National Guard's "Performance of the Week." 

Cummings chipped in eight kills and nine digs in Tuesday's Quarterfinal win over Bloomfield Hills Marian, then led the team with 13 digs (to go with 15 kills) in the Semifinal sweep of Fenton. She finished with 10 kills, 14 digs and four blocks in a 3-1 win over Rockford in Saturday's Final; the Rams took only one of seven sets given up by Novi this season, and Cummings had four kills and all four of her blocks over the final two sets as the Wildcats pulled away. All three matches exemplified how Cummings has worked to become an all-around player, while remaining the threat who, as coach Jennifer Cottrill explained, doesn't allow teams to defend only one side of the court because if they do, "she will terminate" from the right. 

In addition to the two Class A titles and 54-1 record this fall, Novi also finished Finals runner-up in 2014 and finished a combined 198-20 during Cummings' four years on varsity. She had 510 kills on a .346 attack percentage, plus 317 digs and 59 blocks this season, and finished with 1,042 kills, 183 blocks and 628 digs over her career. Cummings played club with five of this year's other Miss Volleyball finalists and finished runner-up for the award to Corunna's Meredith Norris, coming in second by only one vote. Also an academic all-state selection with a 3.8 grade-point average, Cummings will study psychology and continue her volleyball career next season at Valparaiso University. 

Coach Jennifer Cottrill said: “The first couple of years I was here (2012 and 2013), we lost to Northville in the District Finals and never advanced past that in the postseason, and Ally was around for that – she’s the only one that was, and as we wanted to change that, she was the voice of change for us. … She’s always played so well in Battle Creek, all three of her years that we were there. Last night at our banquet, (I said) that’s where she eats pressure for breakfast. It doesn’t faze her. Other players, you see them run around the court, they’re nervous and do things that are uncharacteristic to the norm. But not Ally. She’s so solid in pressure situations.”

Performance Point: “My role was just to play consistently and help everyone to stay calm during stressful moments – be someone in pressure situations who could put the kill down, but mostly just to stay consistent the whole game. We have to make sure we stay in the game, don’t think too far ahead, and if we’re down, work point by point and get down the deficit. I think the whole time, for the most part, we were pretty calm during the games. They were all super-duper tight games, and we hadn’t had anything like that during the season.”

Lasting legacy: “I just hope they can think of me as a really good friend on the team. Not so much how I played during these years, just think ‘she’s such a good captain,’ that I had a good positive attitude and that I was able to be someone they can talk to. When we started this season, we all had roles as captains, and mine was to stay consistent and lead by example. Throughout the year, I think all of our captains accomplished what we set out to do.”

Quite a ride: “Playing on the team the last four years, I think I’ve really gotten better staying mentally strong during the game. There definitely were games I just played awful, but you’ve got to get back up, go to practice and get ready to get better again so the next game you can play better. … It feels so long ago; freshman year was the last year we lost in the first round, in Districts, and every year since we went to Battle Creek. We did a lot of team-building activities, working on our chemistry (after freshman year), and when we came in sophomore year, we were all already family on that team. … My senior year, I can definitely look back and think it was a successful one. It’s not really about me individually, but our team played so well together. For my senior year, to know the team played as well as possible, it’s an amazing feeling.”

It’s an honor: “I’m just so proud that I was able to come so close to winning (Miss Volleyball) against such amazing athletes in that kind of race. Being able to play with five of the other candidates, that makes the perspective bigger. They’re just great people and athletes, and to be able to come in second in that, it’s insane to me.”

Ready to help: “I’ve just always wanted to help people, and I know psychology, and working with kids, is something I wanted to do as well. I wanted to have a profession where I could help people out, and maybe with sports psychology so I can continue in the athletic area working with kids and athletic people. Growing up, you should always have a good support system, because that’s how you’ll act the rest of your life – how you’re taught as a kid. I want to have that positive influence.” 

- 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:
Nov. 17: Chloe Idoni, Fenton volleyball Read
Nov. 10: Adelyn Ackley, Hart cross country Read
Nov. 3: Casey Kirkbride, Mattawan soccer – Read
Oct. 27: Colton Yesney, Negaunee cross country Read
Oct. 20: Varun Shanker, Midland Dow tennis Read
Oct. 13: Anne Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country – Read
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Novi's Ally Cummings follows through on a kill attempt during Saturday's Class A Final win against Rockford. (Middle) Cummings takes her turn serving against the Rams. 

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.)