Schoolcraft Making Most of Every Moment

By Pam Shebest
Special for

November 3, 2020

SCHOOLCRAFT — First it was the tennis courts, then the softball field.

Finally the Schoolcraft volleyball team got back to its familiar digs in the gym to start this unusual season.

In spite of the unorthodox beginning, the girls were just happy to be playing, said senior libero Kelby Goldschmeding.

After losing in five sets to perennial power Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in the MHSAA Division 3 Final a year ago, the Eagles are hoping for a rematch down the line.

St. Mary has been ranked No. 1 and Schoolcraft No. 2 in the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association poll all season.

The 31-3 Eagles started their postseason with a 3-0 win against Decatur on Monday and will face White Pigeon on Wednesday in the District Semifinal at Schoolcraft.

“The biggest thing this year is don’t take a thing for granted,” Schoolcraft coach Erin Onken said. “Nothing is a given. It’s day-by-day, and you live or die.

“I think we are successful because we have really great, hard-working kids, too. We play for each other and respect what we’re trying to do.”

The Eagles graduated “a huge player” from last season in Andelyn Simkins, now playing volleyball at Western Michigan University.

“The question early on that everybody asked was how do you replace that,” Onken said.

“I said you don’t replace that, you hope that the qualities that were instilled in the group carry over, like being grateful and working hard.”

In her ninth year coaching the Eagles, Onken has taken her team to the Finals twice, losing to St. Mary both times.

Last year, “we tried to keep everything in perspective: if we win, we win. if we lose, we lose, but we want to go down the way we did,” she said.

“It was hard. Just getting there was pressure enough, then going five sets, I think they were just grateful for the experience and that definitely transferred over to this year, having so many return.”

Four starters are back from last year’s team: Allie Goldschmeding, Maggie Morris, Kayla Onken and Anna Schuppel. All are seniors.

Setter Kayla Onken said making it to the Finals last year gave her perspective.

“You have to take every moment in, soak it in, and make the most out of every situation,” she said. “Whether it’s a win or a loss, it’s still a very big part of my playing career.

“It teaches you to give your full-out effort, no matter what, even if you’re exhausted mentally, physically. It’s emotionally draining because it’s such a big atmosphere.”

Special bonds

A four-year starter, Kayla Onken said being the coach’s daughter was a challenge her freshman and sophomore years.

“I definitely got more backlash from it, mostly my freshman year, being the new kid and being the coach’s daughter,” she said. “It taught me you have to work for what you get, and I’ve always wanted to prove myself because I knew that this is what I wanted, this is what I have to do to get there.

“I thought I had to prove myself even more because of my position. There was some resentment sometimes, but that got me to where I am today.”

Erin Onken said her daughter overcame some teammates who did not feel she should play because she did not earn it.

“The thing I respect the most about (Kayla) is that she has absolutely made that her point,” Erin Onken said. “I want to start, I know I can, I know I’m talented, and if that’s who I have to beat out, then I’m going to go beat them out.”

Kayla Onken said having that special bond with her coach mom is something a lot of people never experience, but “It’s definitely a topic of conversation at the house.

“I don’t really get an off moment from being a coach’s kid,” she added. “It’s nice, but it can be draining sometimes, too.”

Talking about these seniors, the coach gets a bit wistful, more so than other years.

“It’s hard because I have seven seniors now and they’re (Kayla’s) friends,” she said. “It’s always hard to say good-bye to a group of seniors.

“These kids I know even more because I see them all the time.”

Taking nothing for granted

Kayla Onken joined Simkins on the all-state first team last season, while Morris and Schuppel made the second team and Kelby Goldschmeding earned honorable mention.

Looking back to the start of theis season, Goldschmeding said she is just happy they are having one this fall.

“First we practiced on the tennis courts, and then our maintenance crew made a court on the softball field for us, in the grass in the outfield,” she said.

“We were all happy just to be out there playing again, but we were doing a bunch of ball control and all that. We were just happy to have an actual net and actual court lines because then we could serve and hit.”

Goldschmeding has an additional reason to be grateful for this opportunity. As a sophomore, she sat out after suffering minor concussions.

“It was really hard for me,” she said. “I think I just came back stronger from them, knowing that I’m just thankful to be back on the court and be able to play still.”

Onken said Goldschmeding is mentally tough.

“She never came back timid,” she said. “The team is always so supportive and happy to have her back. I think that helped.

“It was never from getting hit from an attack. It was always from hustle play. She’ll run through these bleachers to get a ball and even now, there’s no hesitation in her, which is really cool.”

Senior middle Maggie Morris also missed a year after suffering a broken ankle her freshman season, and she said it was an eye-opener.

“It helped me as a player realizing that I can’t take anything for granted,” she said.

Getting back to the Final has been the team’s goal all year.

“Having the chance to play at Kellogg (Arena in Battle Creek) was an amazing experience,” Morris said. “We’ve been working at it every day off and on the court.”

She said a key to the team’s success is the team identity: “Grateful, family over everything, nothing is a given, positive and constant communication and holding each other reliable and accountable.”

Other seniors on the team are Lilli Curtis and Hannah Grochowski.

The lone junior is Sophie Ridge and sophomores are Abbi Curtis, Allison Bailey, Camden Bruner and Cassidy Bruner.

Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Schoolcraft’s Allie Goldschmeding digs a ball during a match this fall. (Middle) Anna Schuppel gets high over the net to send back a volley. (Below) Clockwise, from top left: Kelby Goldschmeding, Maggie Morris, coach Erin Onken, Kayla Onken. (Action photos by John Curtis; head shots by Pam Shebest.)

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.)