Senior-Led Lake Orion Earns 1st Title

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 17, 2018

BATTLE CREEK – With 10 seniors on the roster, it’s fitting this year’s version of the Lake Orion volleyball team was the one to bring the school its first MHSAA volleyball title. 

And while they’re plenty talented, that group brought a trait coach Tony Scavarda said was the difference in getting his program over the top:


“We’ve been in situations this year several times where we were down late in sets, and they don’t stop playing,” Scavarda said. “Even the set we lost tonight, they could have just said, ‘Eh, we’ll win the next set.’ But no, they came back, it was 23-24, and fought even to the very end of that set. They’re very resilient, gritty, and they don’t let any set go without a fight.” 

Lake Orion defeated Rockford 25-18, 25-23, 23-25, 25-16 on Saturday at Kellogg Arena to claim the Division 1 title. It was the program’s second trip to the final game, with the first ending with a loss against Rockford in 2011. 

Thanks to a 30-kill effort from senior Paige Briggs and a 50-set effort from senior Wren Macaulay, it was clear there wouldn’t be any heart break this time. 

“Honestly, it just feels unreal,” Macaulay said while hugging the championship trophy. “Being here for four years and on the team and losing the last three years, it feels so good to end on a winning streak and not with tears this year. It’s exciting, it’s really exciting. It still hasn’t hit me yet.” 

The Dragons (68-6) not only brought home the first state title in school history, but became the first team from the Oakland Activities Association to win at the Finals level, something Scavarda learned at the post-match press conference. 

“We knew it was the first ever for Lake Orion, which was a pretty big accomplishment. But to be the only one from the OAA, seeing that it’s one of the toughest leagues year in and year out in the state, that’s surprising,” Scavarda said. “But I knew these guys had it in them. It was just a matter of putting it together at the right time.” 

After controlling much of the first set, Lake Orion found itself trailing for much of the second. That’s when it decided to lean a bit more on Briggs, who had 10 kills in the frame.  

“My whole thought was Wren really likes to spread the ball around, and it opens Paige up a lot of times,” Scavarda said. “I specifically told her though, I don’t care if Paige’s legs fall off tonight, I want to take this in three. She can rest tomorrow and the next day. We gotta get that second set. That’s a big momentum thing; even though they got that third set, we knew that we were still up 2-1. It’s still a nice little cushion to have.” 

Rockford (47-12-1) didn’t relent in the third, leading for much of it before holding Lake Orion off late. 

“We’ve been in that situation a couple times before, and they handled themselves very well,” Rockford coach Kelly Delacher said. “They continued to fight throughout that third set, and did a good job of squeaking out a win there.” 

But Lake Orion grabbed control of the fourth set early, and kept Rockford at arm’s length throughout before closing the match, fittingly, with a kill by Briggs, assisted by Macaulay. 

“I feel like our team is really good at being calm in those tough situations,” Lake Orion senior middle blocker Leigha Boes said. “Especially when it’s close, we really don’t hear the cheering and the crowd and the other team.” 

Senior libero Ciara Livingway had 13 digs for the Dragons, while Boes had nine kills. Kendal Robertson added six kills and four blocks, while Sydney Smith had seven kills and 11 digs. 

Senior Lindsay Taylor led Rockford with 20 kills and 14 digs. Emmy Webb added 12 kills, while Emilee Karelse had 36 assists. 

“I’m super proud with how my team played,” Delacher said. “It’s not an easy thing coming out and playing under bright lights and cameras and a big, huge crowd from your school, and I thought they performed very well under the pressure throughout the whole tournament. Lake Orion is a very good team, and they’re a very deserving champion.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Lake Orion hoists its first MHSAA championship trophy Saturday at the Kellogg Arena. (Middle) Dragons Wren Macaulay (10), Leigha Boes (13) and Paige Briggs put up a block as Rockford’s Emmy Webb sends a kill attempt through.

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.)