Weber Coming Up Big Again as Madison Eyes League, District Opportunities

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

October 12, 2021

ADRIAN – Abby Weber doesn’t stand out on the volleyball court during warm-ups or lineup introductions. 

At about 5-foot-6, Weber doesn’t look like a dominating volleyball player – until the game starts, that is. After that, opponents better know where she’s at and how to stop her.

The Adrian Madison senior captain has been the key cog in a Trojans volleyball team that won its 33rd match of the season Monday. She’s on the varsity for the fourth straight season and, with her on the team, Madison hasn’t lost a Tri-County Conference game. The Trojans have won 49 straight TCC matches – and picked up five straight league titles along the way. They are in great shape to capture a sixth straight as they are 7-0 in the league with five matches left. 

In the win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford, Weber was more than dominating, standing out for her serving, hitting, and seemingly making every dig necessary. 

“It’s just her drive,” Madison coach Heather Lanning said. “She is one of those kids who has a heart of gold and the drive and the ambition. She will not let a ball drop.”

Weber started playing volleyball when she was 6, at the YMCA in Adrian. She attended volleyball camps at Madison while growing up, then joined a travel team out of Toledo, located about 35 minutes from Madison, which is in Lenawee County. She played two years on the middle school team, then was brought straight to the Trojans varsity as a freshman. 

She played her way into the lineup and has stayed there since. Last year she was the only underclassmen in an otherwise all-senior lineup. Despite not being a senior, she was a captain. It is a role she relishes.

“They all depend on me because I’m a captain,” she said. “I love to help them and give them energy. When someone gets a kill or something, I want to congratulate them because it’s a big deal. They love it.”

In the win over Whiteford, Weber recorded her 1,500th career kill. Earlier this year she went over 1,000 digs. It’s kind of like a basketball player having 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds during a career.

Adrian Madison volleyball“It just goes to show her drive and her ability on the court,” Lanning said. “That’s just Abby.”

Lanning is the second coach Weber has played for during her four-year varsity career. Lanning previously coached the Trojans JV team, so she was familiar with most of the Madison varsity when she got the head coaching job. She didn’t now Weber, but it didn’t take her long to notice what a gem she had inherited.

“She already knew everyone else,” Weber said. “I was into the mix with them.”

Lanning was looking over some statistics from the last couple of seasons when she realized the milestone her returning all-conference and all-county player was nearing.

“She told me I was coming up to 1,500 digs,” Weber said. “I know it was a pretty great accomplishment to get it. I’m happy about it.”

Weber said she couldn’t do it alone. Through Monday she has 1,508 career digs and 1,104 career kills. She had 19 kills and 17 digs in Monday’s match alone.

“My team helps me,” Weber said. “I wouldn’t be able to get a dig if it wasn’t for people helping me and telling me where everyone is, and I wouldn’t have as many kills as I do if it wasn’t for my setters and back row making the pass. It’s because of everyone.”

Driven by a high energy level on the court, Weber often serves, then makes a move to get closer to the net, and, finally, will get to the front row before the ball is back on her team’s side.

“I like to go with the faster-pace tempo,” she said. 

Lanning said wherever she puts Weber, she is impressed.

“She’s very effective on the attack from the back row,” Lanning said. “She can still kill it from the back row. It doesn’t matter where she is at.”

The moves Weber made impressed her opposing coach Monday. Whiteford’s Janie Bunge saw far too much of Weber.

“She was everywhere,” Bunge said. “As soon as her rotation came up, she’d serve six or seven points in a row. We couldn’t stop her.”

Weber is interested in playing college volleyball but isn’t sure where at the moment. She’s been looking at some schools at the NAIA level. 

“I love being part of a team,” Weber said. “I have made a lot of friends from volleyball and competing against other teams. It’s really fun.”

Madison keeps getting stronger as the season goes on. They are getting contributions from multiple players, including sophomores Tatum Wilson and Jillian Kendrick, four juniors and five of Weber’s fellow seniors, such as Mallory Palpant and Hannah Kendrick. All four of those players had their moments in Monday’s win. 

Madison has begun getting some votes in the weekly Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association rankings. The Trojans were among the honorable mention teams in the latest Division 3 poll. The top-ranked team – Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central – is in the District that Madison will host.

“We are thinking about Districts,” Weber said. “We’re just going to try and figure out where the other teams’ holes are and what we need to do.”

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 Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Adrian Madison’s Abby Weber gets high over the net on a kill attempt this season against Sand Creek. (Middle) Webber sends a volley back toward the Aggies’ side of the net. (Photos by Mike Dickie.)

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.)