Preview: Mix of Familiar and Hopeful

November 16, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Three reigning champions will return to MHSAA Volleyball Finals weekend beginning Thursday at Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena. Also making the trip are eight teams that have never won an MHSAA title.

And it's guaranteed at least one of those hopefuls will get the chance, as Class C semifinalists Brown City and Adrian Madison open the final three days of this season in a match to determine which will play for a championship Saturday for the first time.

Click for the schedule in full plus information on live broadcasts of all 12 matches on and Below is a glance at all 16 contenders, with statistics through last week's Regional Finals.  

Class A

 46-5-3, unranked
Coach: Jerry Eisinger, third season (124-32-16)
League finish: First in Flint Metro League.
Championship history: Three runner-up finishes (most recent 1992). 
Best wins: 3-2 over No. 2 Clarkston in the Regional Final, 3-2 over No. 10 Utica Eisenhower in the Regional Semifinal, 2-0 and 2-0 over Class B No. 10 Frankenmuth, 2-0 over Class C No. 6 Brown City.
Players to watch: Kiley Aldred, 5-6 sr. S (1,132 assists, 381 digs); Jessica Warford, 5-11 sr. OH (640 kills, .320 hitting %, 403 digs); Chloe Idoni, 5-11 soph. OH (433 kills, .390 hitting %, 107 blocks, 64 aces).
Finals forecast: Fenton has been building toward this during Eisinger’s three seasons, adding a second league and third District title during his tenure this fall. Fenton opened 10-1 and never really slowed down; the Tigers also went 4-1 against Class B honorable mention Goodrich and have won 11 straight – highlighted by the upset-filled Regional title run. This will be their first Semifinal appearance since 1992. Warford and senior defensive specialist Taylor Mowery (566 digs this season) were all-region picks a year ago and are two of senior seniors.  

 52-1, No. 1
Coach: Jennifer Cottrill, fifth season (230-21-2)
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Central, Kensington and overall.
Championship history: Class A champion 2015, runner-up 2014.
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 7 Farmington Hills Mercy in the Regional Final, 3-0 over honorable mention Bloomfield Hills Marian in the Quarterfinal, 3-1 (District Final), 2-1, 3-0, 3-0 over No. 6 Northville; 2-0 over No. 9 Grand Haven, 2-1 and 3-0 over Class B No. 3 North Branch.
Players to watch: Erin O’Leary, 5-10 jr. S (1,305 assists, 209 kills, .472 hitting %, 70 aces, 363 digs); Ally Cummings, 5-11 sr. RS (418 kills, .348 hitting %, 54 blocks, 302 digs); Abryanna Cannon, 6-1 jr. OH (403 kills, .388 hitting %, 65 aces, 387 digs).
Finals forecast: The reigning champion Wildcats are an incredible 157-10 over the last three seasons, with their only loss this fall to No. 2 Clarkston. Cummings was a finalist for the Miss Volleyball Award, and O’Leary no doubt will be a heavy favorite next season and is nationally-renowned for her age group. Novi’s run this fall also has included multiple wins over Class A honorable mentions Rochester Hills Stoney Creek and one each over honorable mentions Saline, Macomb Dakota and Class D No. 1 Plymouth Christian. The Wildcats have given up only six sets in 53 matches, and more than one only in that 2-1 loss to the Wolves. Junior libero Claire Pinkerton (555 digs this season) joined all-state first-team O’Leary and second-teamer Cummings with all-region honors a year ago.  

 47-8-1, No. 5
Coach: Kelly Delacher, 12th season (461-217-12)
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red.
Championship history: Class A champion 2011.
Best wins: 3-2 over No. 4 Portage Central in the Quarterfinal, 3-2 (Regional Final), 3-1, 3-0, 2-0 over No. 9 Grand Haven; 3-0 over honorable mention Lowell in the District Final, 3-0 over No. 6 Northville, 3-0 over No. 8 Grand Rapids Christian, 2-0 over Class B No. 1 Lake Odessa Lakewood, 2-0 over Class B No. 2 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.
Players to watch: Hailey Delacher, 5-5 jr. S (1,489 assists, 261 digs); Kendra DeJonge, 5-11 sr. OH (445 kills, 62 aces, 277 digs); Cassandra Smigiel, 6-0 sr. MH (314 kills, .320 hitting %, 70 blocks).
Finals forecast: The Rams played many of the best across the Lower Peninsula, defeating Portage Central on Tuesday after falling twice to the Mustangs during the regular season. This fall’s run also has included two wins over Class B No. 8 Grand Rapids South Christian, another over Class B No. 7 Cadillac, one each over Class A or B honorable mentions Richland Gull Lake, Ada Forest Hills Eastern and Fruitport, and an early-season 2-0 over Temperance Bedford. Hailey Delacher made the all-state second team last season, DeJonge earned honorable mention, and now-junior middle Olivia Rademacher (274 kills 75 blocks this season) joined them as all-region. Junior Sara Majerle is another big hitter with 435 kills plus 266 digs and 65 aces this fall.

 56-13-3, unranked
Coach: Jodi Manore, 32nd season (1,927-325-55)
League finish: Second in Southeastern Conference.
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2005), five runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-2 (Regional Final) and 3-2 over honorable mention Saline, 3-0 over Class B No. 7 Cadillac, 2-0 over Class C No. 6 Brown City, 2-0 over Class B No. 2 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, 2-0 over Class B No. 6 Battle Creek Harper Creek.
Players to watch: Heidi Fausze, 5-11 jr. OH (468 kills, .350 hitting %, 96 aces); Erika Wilt, 5-9 sr. OH (435 kills, .373 hitting %, 506 digs); Levi Lennard, 5-9 soph. S (1,400 assists, 259 digs).
Finals forecast: The Kicking Mules have won 14 of their last 15 matches as they travel to their fourth Semifinal over the last six seasons. Manore is the state’s winningest volleyball coach all-time, and as evidenced by the program’s 23-0 record in Quarterfinals, few know better how to win at this stage. Wilt and now-senior libero Taylor Haberland (1,065 digs, 65 aces this fall) were all-region selections a year ago, and they and those also mentioned above have plenty of help. Four others in addition to Fausze and Wilt also have at least 150 kills this season, with 5-10 junior middle Mackenzie Fuleky hitting at a .426 clip with 96 blocks and seniors Jaycie Harris and Brynn Duvall combining for 504 kills and 141 blocks. 

Class B

 49-6, No. 5
Coach: Lisa Holok, 13th season (501-183)
League finish: First in Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference Red.
Championship history: Class C runner-up 1991.
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 9 Grant in the Quarterfinal, 3-1 (Regional Semifinal) and 2-0 over No. 6 Battle Creek Harper Creek, 2-0 over Class C No. 2 Bronson, 2-0 over Temperance Bedford, 3-2 over Class D No. 2 Mendon.
Players to watch: Franki Strefling, 5-10 sr. OH (351 kills, 214 digs); Britta Mollberg, 5-7 sr. S (356 digs), Alex Tobler, 5-9 sr. OH (588 kills, 349 digs).
Finals forecast: Buchanan vanquished annual nemesis Harper Creek during the Regional and has made the Semifinals for the first time ever in Class B – its previous two trips were in Class C in 1991 and 1978. The Bucks also have shined despite losing Eastern Michigan-bound and 2015 all-state third-teamer Strefling with an injury for part of the season; she’s back and heads a seven-player senior class that has been part of three league and three District titles. Mollberg and senior libero Taylor Strauss (432 digs this fall) also made all-region last season, and 6-0 middle Liz Kuntz had added 313 kills and a team-high 131 blocks entering the week.

 50-7-2, No. 7
Coach: Michelle Brines, 17th season (705-204-37) 
League finish: First in Big North Conference.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-1 (Quarterfinal) and 2-1 over honorable mention Corunna, 2-0 over No. 9 Grant, 2-1 over No. 10 Frankenmuth, 2-0 over Class C No. 5 Traverse City St. Francis, 2-1 and 2-1 over Temperance Bedford.
Players to watch: Kylie Christensen, 6-1 sr. MH (589 kills, .400 hitting %, 141 blocks, 358 digs); Ali Finch, 6-1 sr. S (1,123 assists, 330 kills, 416 digs, 95 blocks, 74 aces); Gabby Kapuscinski, 5-9 jr. OH (283 kills, 472 digs).
Finals forecast: This final week has become almost an annual part of Cadillac’s season, as the Vikings played Tuesday in a Quarterfinal for the eighth straight season and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 2013. They also won their 11th District title in a row, and Corunna’s one set win was the first given up by Cadillac in its last 12 matches this fall. Four seniors anchor a mostly-veteran lineup that also features a freshman; Christensen and Finch made the all-state second team last season and Kapuscinski joined them as all-region.

 53-5, No. 1
Coach: Kellie Rowland, 21st season (980-148-5)
League finish: First in Greater Lansing Activities Conference.
Championship history: Class B champion 2012, two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 2-0 over No. 8 Grand Rapids South Christian, 2-0 over honorable mention Ada Forest Hills Eastern, 2-0 over Class A No. 4 Portage Central, 2-0 over Class A No. 5 Rockford, 2-1 over Class A No. 8 Grand Rapids Christian, 2-0 over Class A honorable mention Richland Gull Lake.
Players to watch: Gabie Shellenbarger, 5-6 sr. S (1,339 assists, 106 blocks, 306 digs, 75 aces); Breanna Wickerink, 5-9 jr. MB (563 kills, .465 hitting %, 143 blocks); Lisa Hewitt, 5-10 jr. MB (132 kills, 124 blocks).
Finals forecast: The Vikings are back in the Semifinals for the third time in five seasons with six players back who saw time during the 2014 championship match loss to North Branch and a seventh who was injured earlier in that run; Shellenbarger, Hewitt and senior right-side hitter Rebecca Kutch started in that Final. Shellenbarger made the all-state first team last season (Hewitt made all-region with her) and sets for five hitters who have at least 130 kills. Kutch adds 157, 321 digs and 79 aces, and junior Alivia Benedict has tallied 373 kills with a .345 hitting percentage. In addition to wins mentioned above, Lakewood swept Class D No. 2 Mendon, No. 4 Lansing Christian and Class C No. 9 Laingsburg.  

 56-9, No. 3
Coach: Jim Fish, 17th season (974-161-46)
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference East.
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-1 over No. 2 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in the Regional Semifinal, 3-0, 2-0 and 2-0 over honorable mention Goodrich in the Regional Final, 2-0 over No. 7 Cadillac, 3-0 over No. 10 Frankenmuth, 3-0 over honorable mention Corunna, 2-0 over honorable mention Marysville, 2-0 over Class A No. 2 Clarkton, 2-1 over Class A No. 6 Northville, 2-1 and 2-1 over Class A honorable mention Lake Orion.
Players to watch: Olivia Fike, 6-1 sr. OH/MH (528 kills, .362 hitting %, 96 blocks); Madee Miner, 5-8 sr. S (1,170 assists, 150 kills, 116 aces, 282 digs); Allyson Severance, 6-1 soph. OH (227 kills, 234 digs).
Finals forecast: Four of six starters are back from last season’s Class B runner-up team, and Fike and Miner also started in the 2014 championship match win. Fike and Severance made the all-state first team last season and Miner made the second team, while sophomore hitter Reese Ruhlman joined them as all-region. Junior right-side hitter Janel Ruhlman has become a big contributor this season with 328 kills, second most on the team. Another tough schedule has the Broncos ready for the weekend; in addition to the wins above, North Branch also downed Class A honorable mention Lowell, Class C No. 6 Brown City twice and Class D No. 1 Plymouth Christian, plus Class A semifinalist Fenton. 

Class C

 57-3-2, unranked
Coach: Dawn Opsal, 19th season (561-254-82)
League finish: First in Tri-County Conference.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-2 over No. 1 Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in the Regional Final, 2-0 over Class D honorable mention Pittsford, 2-0 over Class D honorable mention Camden-Frontier.
Players to watch: Courtney Benschoter, sr. OH (523 kills, .349 hitting %, 51 blocks, 402 digs, 76 aces); Kiarah Horn, jr. S (1,470 assists, 279 digs, 75 aces); Ysabela Soto, sr. OH (422 kills, 356 digs, 77 aces)
Finals forecast: Madison cruised through the regular season, giving up only 13 sets. And the Trojans have made that dominance stand up in the tournament as well, giving up three sets over six matches while eliminating the top-ranked Kestrels. Benschoter and Soto were all-region picks last year and join sophomore Kaiya Wall (496 kills, .322 hitting percentage, 67 blocks) for a formidable group of hitters. Middle Amia Benson gives the team a third senior starter, but she, Benschoter and Soto are the team’s only spring graduates.

 48-9-6, No. 2
Coach: Jean LaClair, 16th season (744-273-62)
League finish: First in Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference Blue.
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 9 Laingsburg in the Quarterfinal, 3-0 (Regional Final) and 2-1 over No. 8 Kalamazoo Christian, 2-1 over No. 5 Traverse City St. Francis, 2-0 over honorable mention Grand Rapids Covenant Christian, 3-0 and 3-1 over Class D No. 2 Mendon, 3-0 over Class B No. 5 Buchanan.  
Players to watch: Jill Pyles, 5-10 sr. MH (363 kills, .331 hitting %, 100 aces, 141 blocks); Allison Sikorski, 5-9 sr. OH (409 kills, 60 aces, 450 digs); Kiana Mayer, 5-11 jr. S (1,435 assists, 93 aces, 175 kills, 115 blocks, 305 digs).
Finals forecast: Pyles, Sikorski and Mayer (as an outside hitter) all started on the team that swept Monroe St. Mary in last season’s championship match, as did now-sophomore middle Ashton Wronikowski (202 kills, 114 blocks this season). Also, now-sophomore Kiera Lasky was an all-region libero as Pyles made the all-state first team and Sikorski made the second. LaClair is one of the state’s all-time winningest coaches with 1,063 victories over three stops and 22 seasons, and her team is unbeaten over its last 20 matches (18-0-2).

 44-9-5, No. 6
Coach: Jenna Welke, fourth season (144-42-18)
League finish: First in Greater Thumb Conference East.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 4 New Lothrop in the Quarterfinal, 2-1 and 2-0 over Class B honorable mention Marysville, 2-0 and 2-0 over Class B honorable mention Croswell-Lexington, 2-0 over Class D No. 6 Auburn Hills Oakland Christian.  
Players to watch: Becki Krause, sr. OH (586 kills, .326 hitting %, 83 aces, 108 blocks, 466 digs); Breigha Donnelly, sr. RS (210 kills, 106 blocks, 398 digs, 66 aces); Alexia Mason, sr. S (1,006 assists, 105 aces, 401 digs, 89 blocks).
Finals forecast: After making the Semifinals last season for the first time, Brown City is back with three starters from the team that fell in five sets to eventual runner-up Monroe St. Mary. Sophomore outside hitter Kendal Muxlow (266 kills, 106 aces, 79 blocks this season) joined Krause and Mason in the lineup, while now-junior libero Jasmin Bender (553 digs in 2016) rotated in off the bench. Brown City advanced this time by coming back from a 2-0 deficit to Shelby in the Quarterfinal; those two sets were the first the Green Devils had given up this postseason. Krause made the all-state second team and Mason was an honorable mention last fall.

 40-10, honorable mention
Coach: Lisa Twardzik, 20th season (625-131-43)
League finish: First in Western Peninsula Athletic Conference.
Championship history: Class C runner-up 2008.
Best wins: 3-1 over No. 5 Traverse City St. Francis in the Quarterfinal, 3-1 over honorable mention Rudyard in the Regional Final, 2-1 over Class D honorable mention Suttons Bay, 2-1 over Class D honorable mention Rogers City.
Players to watch: Anna Johnson, 5-6 sr. S (163 aces, 285 digs); Hailey Wickstrom, 6-3 sr. RS (595 kills, 182 digs, 55 blocks); Lea Bjorn, 5-9 jr. OH (264 kills, 243 digs).
Finals forecast: After four straight Quarterfinal misses, Calumet avenged last season’s loss to St. Francis by winning to advance this time. Wickstrom was an all-state honorable mention a year ago and Johnson joined her as all-region; together they lead a team that has won 28 of its last 29 matches since also falling to St. Francis 2-0 midseason. The Copper Kings have given up only three sets during the postseason and over the closing run also avenged previous losses this fall to rivals Hancock and Houghton. 

Class D

 42-4-5, No. 6
Coach: Priscilla Larned, 32nd season (988-458-81)
League finish: Tied for first in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-2 over No. 1 Plymouth Christian, 2-0 over honorable mention Brighton Charyl Stockwell, 3-1 over Portland St. Patrick in the Quarterfinal.
Players to watch: Samantha Morse, sr. S (1,070 assists, 282 digs); Alexandra Gudobba, sr. OH (502 kills, .378 hitting %, 92 aces, 481 digs); Starr Sumner, sr. MH (317 kills, .392 hitting %, 93 aces, 66 blocks).
Finals forecast: Oakland Christian is back in the Semifinals for the fifth time and first time since 2013. The set given up to St. Patrick was the only set lost by the Lancers this postseason. The team’s 42 wins also are their most under longtime coach Larned since 2009. Oakland Christian has seven seniors, and six start; outside hitter Marisa Mingle had added 306 kills, 116 aces and 426 digs heading this week.

 42-10-4, No. 3
Coach: Laurie Glass, 22nd season (871-258-87)
League finish: Second in Northwest Conference.
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), six runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 9 Fife Lake Forest Area in the Quarterfinal, 3-1 (District opener), 3-0 and 3-0 over honorable mention Suttons Bay; 2-0 over honorable mention Camden-Frontier, 2-0 over Class B honorable mention Saginaw Swan Valley, 2-0 over Class C honorable mention Calumet, 2-0 over Class C No. 5 Traverse City St. Francis.
Players to watch: Allie Martin, 5-7 sophomore OH (534 kills, 114 aces, 479 digs); Ella Siddall, 5-4, soph. S (1,100 assists, 63 aces); Rowan Wilson, 5-7 jr. OPP (373 kills, 475 digs).
Finals forecast: Leland broke Battle Creek St. Philip’s nine-season hold on the Class D title last fall and proceeded to graduate three all-state hitters. But the Comets also had two starring freshmen in 2015, and Siddall is back after making the all-state first team while Martin made the second and senior libero Julie Bardenhagen (514 digs this fall) earned honorable mention. Tuesday’s win was the 1,000th for Glass, who also has coached at Traverse City Central, and it moved Leland’s record against Class D teams to 18-0 this season. Her team played at least 11 matches against teams from every class and finished with a winning record against all four. 

 33-11-1, No. 1
DJ Kellogg, second season (69-16-4)
League finish:
 Tied for first in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue
Championship history: 
Class D runner-up 2010.
Best wins:
 3-1 over No. 2 Mendon in the Quarterfinal, 3-1 over No. 4 Lansing Christian in the Regional Final, 3-0 over No. 10 North Adams-Jerome in the Regional Semifinal, 3-1 over No. 6 Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, 2-1 over Class B No. 2 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, 2-0 over Class C No. 5 Traverse City St. Francis.
Players to watch:
 Grace Kellogg, 5-9 jr. OH/DS (403 kills, 331 digs); Gabriella Kellogg, 5-9 fr. MB (241 kills, .327 hitting %) Jessica Paulson, 5-10 sr. S (724 assists).
Finals forecast:
 Plymouth Christian makes the trip to Kellogg as the top-ranked team in Class D for the second season in a row and with six of the seven players who saw action in last season’s Semifinal loss. The Eagles have certainly justified their top ranking, and prepped by playing a number of bigger schools – 10 of their 11 losses were to Class A and B teams, including the top two ranked teams in Class A at the end of the regular season.

 35-10-1, honorable mention
Jackie Quaine, ninth season (297-101-34)
League finish:
 First in North Star League Big Dipper.
Championship history: 
Lower Peninsula Class C champion 1988, runner-up 1987.
Best wins:
 3-1 over honorable mention Crystal Falls Forest Park in the Quarterfinal, 3-0 over No. 7 DeTour in the Regional Semifinal, 3-0 (District Semifinal) and 3-0 over No. 5 Onaway.
Players to watch:
 Taylor Fleming, 5-11 soph. MH (360 kills, 104 blocks); Erika Peacock, 5-2 sr. S (322 assists, 62 aces, 138 digs); Kayla Rabeau, 5-7 jr. MH (252 kills, 99 aces, 366 digs).
Finals forecast:
 Rogers City is at the Semifinals for the first time since playing in Class C in 2003. The Hurons have lost only one set during the postseason, against Forest Park. That broke a 10-match sweep streak, and total the team has won 20 straight. Four seniors start; Peacock is joined by defensive specialist Mary Brege and outside hitters Hannah Dittmar and Saige Wagner.

PHOTO: Cadillac's Ali Finch (5) sets up a teammate during Tuesday's Quarterfinal win over Corunna. (Click for more from Varsity Monthly.)

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.)