Three Rivers Follows Past Standout to League Title, with More Historic Hopes

By Scott Hassinger
Special for

October 31, 2023

THREE RIVERS – Megan Jergens was a sophomore outside hitter when Three Rivers won its last Wolverine Conference volleyball title in 2013.

Southwest CorridorTen years later, Jergens has the Wildcats sitting back on top of the league standings again as she winds down her first season as head coach.

Three Rivers (40-9-2) reclaimed the long-awaited honor with a 6-1 record sharing the crown with Edwardsburg and Otsego.

The latest championship, along with a couple of individuals on the team who have sketched their name into the MHSAA record book, has created a ton of excitement entering this week's Division 2 District tournament at Paw Paw.

Three Rivers, No. 8 in the final Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association poll, won its District-opening match Monday defeating Paw Paw 25-8, 25-20, 25-3. The Wildcats are scheduled to face Dowagiac in a District semifinal match at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Jergens, Three Rivers' junior varsity mentor the last four seasons, was hired in April to replace former coach Lauren Cholometes.

A solid summer of conditioning and attendance at a couple of camps helped put the building blocks in place for a successful season in Three Rivers.

Expectations have been high with six returning seniors and a couple of underclassmen who play key roles.

Jergens’ biggest concerns initially when she took the reins of the program were how to get a large group of returning seniors the best experience possible while being highly competitive.

"We have a lot of potential with this group and many phenomenal athletes. The main question was how can we take full advantage of this and put it to good use," Jergens said.

Three Rivers' preseason goals were similar to those at all schools with conference, District, Regional and state title hopes.

"Those are everybody's goals, but you have to set little ones to accomplish the bigger ones. It just doesn't happen overnight," Jergens said. “Here at Three Rivers, we are blessed to have a phenomenal weight room that's open four days during the summer. Except for our dead periods, all of our girls were in there lifting every day. There was a big emphasis on our summer workouts. They understand that anything we accomplish has to be earned; it's not just given to them.”

Three Rivers attended the Aquinas Summer Slam which features some of the state's elite teams. The Wildcats also spent a few days at the Ferris State University Camp.

"Playing in those summer scrimmages really helped prepare us for our early-season matches. It allowed us to get off to a much quicker start against some of the better teams in our league," Jergens said.

Senior Allie McGlothlen is escorted by her parents Jon and Kristine McGlothlen on Parent's Night at Three Rivers prior to that match. Besides a rigorous league schedule, Three Rivers competed against several Division 1 schools in weekend tournaments at Gull Lake, the Cereal City Classic in Battle Creek and the Williamston Tournament, where the Wildcats finished first.

"Those kind of tournaments make us work hard for every point, but in the long run it makes us a much better team," Jergens added. “Our practices are extremely competitive because of the personnel we have on this team. Our bench players would be starters at a lot of other schools. We have 14 players on the roster because their attitudes have been really positive. These girls really embrace their individual roles."

Three Rivers has three seniors who have started on varsity since their sophomore season. They are senior middle hitter Jenna Southland, along with right-side hitter Allie McGlothlen and defensive specialist Aliza Munro.

Southland, a 6-foot-2 returning third-team all-stater, leads Three Rivers in kills with 619, a .356 hitting percentage, 99 blocks, 223 digs and 59 aces. This year she has made MHSAA record books lists with 30 kills in a single match, along with most kills in a season (619) and career kills (1,438). She has committed to play at the Division II level at Hillsdale College next fall.

"Our attacking is solid because we have strong hitters all around who know where to place the ball. I feel like our determination has been a big factor as well," Southland said. "I've improved a great deal on my court vision, knowing where my blockers are and talking to the other hitters."

McGlothlen also has been a consistent performer for Three Rivers at right-side hitter. She has 223 kills, 326 digs, 35 aces and 64 blocks.

"Both Jenna and Allie play all-around for us and are powerhouse hitters. We really look to both of them for a lot of contributions," Jergens said. "All of our senior class are strong leaders on and off the court. That kind of leadership can't be taught, and I'm really thankful for that."

McGlothlen also has raised some interest from college coaches with her ability.

"Winning conference and raising that banner was really exciting and special. We worked very hard to get there," McGlothlen said. "We know we always have to be aggressive at the net even with how good our defense is."

Munro, the Wildcats' No. 1 libero, has 526 digs to go with 25 aces.

"Aliza runs our defense. She's a phenomenal serve-receive passer who keeps us steady in the back row," Jergens said.

Munro will continue her playing career the next four years for Spring Arbor University, an NAIA school.

"We never give up on any balls, and our back row communicates very well. We can be down a couple sets, regroup and come back and win," Munro said. 

Lending additional power at the net is senior middle/right-side hitter Arabella Mangold. She has 258 kills, a .240 hitting percentage, 302 digs, 64 blocks and 28 aces.

"Arabella has been a real positive influence on our team. We switched her to middle hitter this year, and I couldn't ask for a better person than her in that role," Jergens said.

Sophomore Miley Southland, Jenna's younger sister, has run the offense to near perfection from her setter's spot as a second-year starter. She has 1,179 assists to go with 78 kills, 33 blocks and 46 aces. She registered an MHSAA record 46 assists in a match against Sturgis, then later surpassed that with 56 against Otsego.

Three Rivers runs a fast-paced offense with various options of attack.

"We run multiple plays that Miley can choose from, and she does a nice job of setting up our offense," Jergens said.

The Southlands also happen to be the younger sisters of Three Rivers' head coach.

Three Rivers varsity volleyball players and their coaches celebrate their first Wolverine Conference title since 2013 after a recent match at Otsego. "Coaching them (Jenna and Miley) is a special dynamic that I'm very thankful for. I am eight and 10 years older than them so we've never been super close, but this has allowed us to have that sister dynamic back,” Jergens said. “They respect me as a coach, so it doesn't really feel like I'm out there coaching my sisters. I look at it as a privilege, and I wouldn't trade that experience for anything.”

Jenna Southland is thankful for the chance to bond with her older sister.

"I love playing for Megan. She pushes me and knows what I need as a player, and I know I can trust her," Jenna Southland said.

Miley is equally ecstatic about playing for her oldest sister.

"It's a lot of fun playing for my older sister. We have real good chemistry, and she knows when to push me and when to back off a little," Miley Southland said. "I feel encouraged by my teammates, and I've really improved on my connection with the hitters. I see the court much better and know where to set the ball."

Seniors Lanie Glass and Maddie O'Hara have played significant roles as well for Three Rivers.

Glass has 99 kills, 37 aces, 114 digs and 24 blocks at outside hitter, while O'Hara sports totals of 114 kills, 74 digs and 22 blocks at left-outside hitter.

Jergens has coached most of her players on her varsity roster, since they played for her at the JV level or on her club teams.

"These girls have had me as a coach for a long time. That's made the coaching transition much easier for them since I took over," Jergens said. “I feel like we have a special relationship because they know me inside and out and what my expectations of them are. There is a mutual respect between us.”

Three Rivers' league title was just the third in school history in volleyball, joining those won in 2012 and 2013.

Should Three Rivers win its District, the Wildcats would get a possible rematch with Otsego in the Regional. Otsego edged Three Rivers in the final league match 25-20, 25-23, 25-23, 25-16, 20-18.

Three Rivers’ longest postseason run in this sport came in 2021, when the Wildcats reached the Regional Final before falling to Niles.

"Winning league has been a full-circle moment for us because volleyball isn't a sport that Three Rivers has necessarily been a powerhouse in. We have a standout conference where we have multiple teams that play at a high level," Jergens said.

“This team is really special, and they know they are special. I'm really excited to see what we can do in Districts.”

Scott HassingerScott Hassinger is a contributing sportswriter for Leader Publications and previously served as the sports editor for the Three Rivers Commercial-News from 1994-2022. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Seniors Jenna Southland (12) and Madelyn O'Hara combine at the net to block a kill attempt by a South Haven player. (Middle) Senior Allie McGlothlen is escorted by her parents Jon and Kristine McGlothlen on Parent's Night at Three Rivers prior to that match. (Below) Three Rivers varsity volleyball players and their coaches celebrate their first Wolverine Conference title since 2013 after a recent match at Otsego. (Top and middle photo by Scott Hassinger. Below photo courtesy of Three Rivers’ athletic department.)

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.)