Reese Earns 1st Championship Dance with Unforgettable Comeback

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 20, 2021

BATTLE CREEK – As Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” rang through the Kellogg Arena speakers Saturday, the Reese volleyball team put on a show. 

The Rockets huddled up, sang and danced near their bench following the second set of their Division 3 Final against Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central. In isolation, it looked like the beginning of a celebration. With context, it was a team looking to regain its identity while in a 0-2 hole. 

“You have to fake it until you make it, man,” Reese senior setter Aydan Dalak said. “You have to fake it until you make it, and make it look like you’re good.” 

Three sets later, the Rockets replaced dancing with the happiest player pile in Reese volleyball history, as they came back to defeat SMCC 18-25, 19-25, 25-15, 25-21, 16-14 and claim the school’s first volleyball Finals title. 

“It was just exciting. It was, I think, everything that people want to see when they come to a state championship game,” Reese coach Angie Compton said. “We definitely were not ourselves at the beginning, and we loosened up that third set and we just never looked back. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t without our, ‘Oh no, are we going to do this?’ moments. But they’re just a great group of girls that just got the job done.” 

The win denied SMCC a third straight Division 3 title, and ended with a back-and-forth final set, which began with each team going on a 5-0 run. The Kestrels took a 9-7 lead during the set, but, outside of the final tally, neither team led by more than one after that. 

Reese (35-5-1) clinched the title on the second championship point of the night, as senior Maddi Osantowski and junior Abby Karst combined for a block. 

“Honestly, I don’t even remember it,” Osantowski said. “I just saw her go up and I was like, ‘Whatever, let’s just try and block this girl and get the game over with.’ I was kind of in shock. That was my first block against her the whole game. It was great.” 

Reese/Monroe St. Mary Catholic CentralAs the tension of the final set increased, Reese continued to stay loose, lining up as sprinters on the one side of the court as a timeout would come to an end, and faux sprinting across to the other side when the horn would blow. That joined a stirring rendition of “Living on a Prayer” and a team shadow boxing exercise during “Eye of the Tiger” in getting the Rockets into the proper headspace to come out victorious. 

“I was like, ‘Everybody is probably judging us like crazy. Do they not care?’” Compton said with a laugh. “We expected to win. We came in thinking we could do this. We don’t think everybody else thought that, but we don’t care. We definitely care, especially in those moments, we care the most when we’re loosening ourselves up. When we’re dancing and getting loose, we know that’s how we play better. I know it looks weird, but it’s very important to our style of play.” 

Also very important to their style of play is Osantowski, who finished with 34 kills and totaled 110 attack attempts during the match.  

“I know that she will put it down when we need it to be put down,” said Dalak, who had 42 assists on the night. “It’s good to mix it up sometimes, too, because we need to get those blockers moving around.” 

Dalak did switch it up in a crucial moment, ending a wild rally with a dump for the final point of the fourth set. Dalak also had 13 digs and six kills in the match, while Sarah Gray added 21 digs and six kills. Josie Johnson led the Reese defense with 29 digs, while Osantowski added 17. 

While Reese was getting loose and gaining momentum, SMCC (36-12) was attempting to regain what it had in the opening two sets.  

“A big part of it is, I tell them, ‘Take a deep breath, let’s focus on the things that we know,’” Kestrels co-coach Cassandra Haut said. “What do we know about the other side? Is the setter up, is the setter down? What do they normally hit in this situation? And we talk about the rotation we’re in. What’s our best hit? Any way to just kind of refocus on something else, not the nerves or anything else that you’re feeling.” 

Senior Kate Collingsworth spread the wealth with her 52 assists for SMCC. Jessica Costlow had 22 kills, McKenna Payne had 21 and Audrey Cousino had 10. Payne also had 29 digs and four aces, while Costlow had 19 digs. 

“I am super, super proud of my team and everything they’ve accomplished this year,” Haut said. “They persevered through a lot of different things, and we play a really tough schedule. And I think it shows with how hard we can push.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Reese’s Aydan Dalak (4) revs up her team during Saturday’s Division 3 championship win. (Middle) St. Mary’s Kate Collingsworth (3) and Lauren Conant (5) put up a block as Reese’s Calli Blossom aims to send a ball through. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)