Trenarys Trade Roles, Mendon Reigns On

October 8, 2015

By Wes Morgan
Special for Second Half

Volleyball found Bill Trenary early on. Actually, countless volleyballs did.

“I was getting hit in the head with volleyballs before I could walk,” the Mendon High School varsity coach, now in his second year at the helm, said. “There’s a very good story about me getting knocked out of a walker in this very gym. I started managing when I was in second grade. Ever since then I’ve been in the gym playing volleyball.”

His mother, Michigan High School Volleyball Coaches Association 2014 Hall of Fame inductee Kathy Trenary, spent more than three decades guiding prep squads, most notably a 19-year run at Mendon that netted 721 victories, 10 conference championships, 15 district titles, six regional crowns, trips to six MHSAA Semifinals and championship victories in 1998, 1999 and 2001.

Growing up around the game undoubtedly sparked Bill Trenary’s interest in the sport. Like most boys, however, he was just as engrossed in other athletic and leisurely pursuits. He enjoyed the outdoors, beating his mother on the squash court and obsessively studying opening chess moves — a competitive fire serving as the common thread.

One unique experience in particular was likely what set Bill Trenary up for a successful career in volleyball.

His parents put a premium on experiencing other cultures. His father, Robert Trenary, was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Botswana when Bill was in the eighth grade. That enabled the Trenary family to live abroad for a year. Bill Trenary ended up setting for his school’s varsity team, which played outdoors under the African sun.

Bill and younger brother Matt went on to play intramural volleyball at the University of Michigan.

“They tried to win the championship but could never do it because a lot of kids on the team just wanted to play,” Kathy Trenary said. “I’d go to Ann Arbor and watch them play. That was great.”

It was about that time when Kathy Trenary took over as head coach at Vicksburg. It was an opportunity for Bill Trenary to fire some high-velocity shots inside high school gyms like those he remembered zipping at him as a toddler.

“I was in my 50s at the time and I said, ‘I really need a hitting boy,” she recalled. “I said, ‘would you like to come and be a hitting boy?’ He really identified with how much he liked (volleyball). He played it all growing up, but he maybe never realized how much he liked it until he started to coach it.

“He just found it fascinating; he has always been a gamer.”

In the years since then, Bill Trenary learned from the best, leading to his takeover of the Mendon program in 2014. Kathy Trenary stayed on as his assistant coach and the continuity was evident with the Hornets’ run to the Class D semifinals in 2014, which ended in a 3-0 loss to Battle Creek St. Philip. The arrangement has been seamless for the Hornets, who are currently ranked No. 6 in the latest MIVCA Class D poll.

“When we decided to switch, part of the reason was her being kind to me, I guess,” Bill Trenary said. “She saw me getting better. It was time for me to kind of step into that role. I think I’m a little better game coach because I’m younger and I can push through long Saturday tournaments and make the quick decisions on the court.

“She is absolutely one of the best coaches I’ve ever seen — attention to detail and running practices. She’ll run most of the drills because, heck, she invented most of the drills. Not utilizing her in that role would just be stupid. Me taking that away from her would just cost us points. There’s no reason not to be doing that when we have someone of that caliber.”

A fan of Tom Tango’s book “Playing the Percentages in Baseball,” Bill Trenary strongly believes in analytics and that some statistical aspects of volleyball are often overlooked and undervalued.

As are role players, which there are more of this year than freak athletes. That’s often the case at a small school such as Mendon, where fundamentals help offset height disadvantages.

This year Mendon has a “huge arm” in junior hitter Megann Leighton, exceptional leadership from seniors Brandy DeLeeuw and Emma Eberstein, lockdown play from junior libero Kaley Smith and reliable and consistent setting from junior Cassie Plummer.

“That’s how other teams see us win, but the way we win is when Nancy Steinacker can come and serve a string in our weak rotation,” Bill Trenary pointed out.

The points are in the details.

“We don’t have the best athletes every year, but we have a deep knowledge of the game, which is fun,” he said. “I’ve just tried to build on that. I know we’re using more math, more stats, more film than we have. That’s just a next generation sort of thing, but we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel."

Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Mendon coach Bill Trenary, far left, huddles with his team during a match this season. (Middle) Mendon assistant Kathy Trenary, left, remains in the program as her son's assistant. (Photos courtesy of Nicci Plummer.)

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.)