Veteran Madison Aiming for Repeat Run

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

September 8, 2017

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

ADRIAN – Last November, Kiarah Horn was part of the first Adrian Madison volleyball team to reach the MHSAA Semifinals in more than 25 years. She’d like nothing more than to do it again.

“It was an awesome experience,” said the Madison senior. “We all want to get back to where we were last year. We are excited about it.”

If the first few weeks of the 2017 volleyball campaign are any indication, the Trojans from Lenawee County could be knocking on the door again come MHSAA tournament time.

Madison went 57-4-2 last season, including a perfect 14-0 in the Tri-County Conference, and was a surprise winner over Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in the Class C Regional Final. The Trojans beat Allen Park Cabrini to advance to the Semifinals at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek before losing to Brown City. It was Madison’s first Semifinal run since 1993 when current head coach Dawn Opsal’s sister was a member of the Trojans team.

“It was so rewarding last year for the girls to get there,” said Opsal, who is a Madison graduate in her 20th season leading the program. “They worked so hard. To beat SMCC, to get to the Semifinals, that was a great experience for everyone. It kind of showed them that, ‘Hey, we can compete.’”

SMCC was the top-ranked team in Class C and a 2015 Class C runner-up when Madison knocked it out of the 2016 tournament.

Opsal, who works in the business office at Madison, was a four-sport athlete in high school and has been around Madison nearly all of her life. The school held a ceremony retiring her number a couple of seasons ago, but she is still going strong. Madison has steadily climbed the volleyball ranks since she took over the program in 1999, a season that saw Madison win just 10 matches. She now owns four TCC championships and six District titles since 2008. She has more than 500 wins.

This year, Opsal created a more rigorous summer schedule and beefed up the regular-season schedule. Topping the school wins record is the last thing on her mind.

“The 57 wins just sort of happened,” she said. “That wasn’t our goal. We just got on a roll and it happened. For me, it’s not about a record or number of wins. I want the girls to play hard, to work hard and get better and, when the time comes, be ready for the (MHSAA) tournament.”

Horn, the senior setter, said the summer schedule was good for her and her teammates, who had to replace three key players, including Ysabela Soto, now playing at Oakland Community College in Auburn Hills.

“We played a lot of bigger schools,” Horn said. “It was a challenge.”

The regular season has been kind to Madison so far. The Trojans are 14-3-1 after winning Thursday’s match against TCC opponent Britton Deerfield. That also includes winning the Addison Tournament, advancing to the finals of the Tecumseh Tournament before losing to Ann Arbor Huron in the championship match (25-23, 25-19) and making it to the semifinals at Schoolcraft College before bowing out to Detroit Cass Tech, 25-22, 22-25, 15-8.

Madison played in summer leagues at Siena Heights University and Schoolcraft College, plus got into some games at Spring Arbor University.

“We have had a good start to the season,” libero Kia Rainey said. “We’ve played against some bigger schools. That will help us later in the season.”

Opsal said the schedule is by design.

“I kind of wanted to see some different schools and see how we competed with them,” she said. “I want to show this team right where we need to be.”

Seven players from last year’s team are on this season’s roster, including Rainey and Horn, Rachel Isom (opposite/middle blocker), Emma Freshcorn (middle blocker), Mahala Raleigh (opposite, middle blocker), and outside hitters Laura Teunion-Smith and Kaiya Wall. Wall, who is approaching 1,000 career kills, was second team all-state last season while Horn was an honorable mention choice.

Of the 10 girls on the varsity roster, five are seniors and five are juniors. Jersi Garza, Taylor Jordan and Kaitlyn Svoboda are the three newcomers.

“I’m excited with all of the returning players and the young ones coming up,” Opsal said. “I know the team has great hope. Last year was a great experience, but we want to make that repeat again and again. We’ve got a lot of little things to work on, but there is time.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Madison all-stater Kaiya Wall puts down a kill past two blockers. (Middle) Trojans coach Dawn Opsal (facing, third from left) huddles with her team during last season’s Semifinal against Brown City. (Top photo by Joni Cabello Ehinger.)

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.)