2011 Finals: Instant Classics

December 16, 2011

BATTLE CREEK -- Alexis Huntey will now be in the conversation when sister Ashley reminisces about her MHSAA Class C Volleyball title in 2007.

The 6-2 senior outside hitter led Morley-Stanwood to the school's second championship Saturday, and the first since her older sister helped the Mohawks to their only other title four years ago against Ubly.

She’s one of the heroes of Saturday’s MHSAA Finals at Kellogg Arena. We’ve got highlights from all four games, and some of the stories behind them.

(Click of full stats from the Finals and Semifinals.)

Class C

When Morley-Stanwood won its 2007 title,  Alexis Huntey watched from the bench as a team manager.

Now, younger sis might even have the better story of the two. 

The Mohawks (58-4-2) claimed the 2011 championship by downing 2010 champion Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 3-2 in one of the most thrilling Finals in MHSAA history.

The see-saw affair saw 32 ties and 13 lead changes from beginning to its nail-biting end, and featured 124 kills. With Morley-Stanwood leading 2-1 in sets (25-22, 26-28, 25-22), the Mohawks were just two points away from victory in set No. 4, leading the Kestrels 23-22. However, Kestrels battled to a 26-24 win to force a decisive fifth set.

Monroe St. Mary (48-4) came out firing in the final set, bolting to an 8-4 lead before the Mohawks rattled off five consecutive points to surge ahead. Fitting to this matchup, the game was tied three more times before Morley-Stanwood went ahead for good on a kill by Kayla Rosman to make it 12-11.

Then, after a Huntey kill put the Mohawks on the brink, the celebration began when a Kestrel attempt sailed wide of the end line to give Morley a 15-13 win and the trophy.

Huntey's 30 kills rank tied for third on the MHSAA Finals list, and she might need ice for her shoulder after 84 attempts.

Monroe SMCC's 63 team kills rank fourth on the all-time MHSAA Finals ledger, while Morley-Stanwood's 61 are tied for sixth. The teams combined for 387 attack attempts and the setters combined for 121 assists.

The defenses played a key role in the roller-coaster affair, as the Kestrels turned in 93 digs, while the Mohawks had 84.

Class A

In the first-ever MHSAA Volleyball Finals appearance for both schools, Rockford rolled over Lake Orion in three sets, 25-21, 25-23, 25-10 to claim the school's first crown.

The Rams (60-8) used an efficient attack to dispose of the Dragons (54-13-3), hitting .289 while limiting Lake Orion to a .115 attack percentage.

Senior setter Halle Peterson had plenty of options offensively, spreading the opportunities around the Rams’ front line. Four players recorded double-digit kills for Rockford, paced by senior hitter Jessica Majerle's 14. Murphy Heyer added 11 kills and led the team with 15 digs, while Andrea Kacsits and Avery Punches chipped in with 10 kills apiece.

Lake Orion senior Shannon Murdock led the Dragons with 13 kills.

Class B

Like both Class A finalists, Tecumseh was in its first MHSAA Final on Saturday. But reigning champion Fruitport played on its strength and playoff experience to claim a second-straight title and the third in program history. 

The Trojans (50-8) defeated Tecumseh 25-13, 25-20, 25-19. The Indians finished 55-4-1.

Fruitport also won Class B in 2005 and has finished MHSAA runner-up four times. The Trojans surivived a five-game Semifinal against East Grand Rapids to earn Saturday's opportunity. 

Breanna Geile had 15 kills and Brandie Jones 14 for Fruitport, with setter Lauren Hazekamp totaling 33 assists. Kelsey Berrington had 32 kills for Tecumseh, and Carly Tillotson had 29 assists. 

Class D

The Tigers of Battle Creek St. Philip continued to make themselves at home in their backyard at Kellogg, winning the Class D title for a sixth straight year.

This year's victim was the same school against which St. Philip began its recent streak, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian. The Tigers pounded out a 3-0 win over the Defenders, 25-16, 25-13 and 25-11 in rolling to the school's 17th title overall.

For coach Vicky Groat, it meant moving one win closer to the school record for MHSAA crowns. She now has led seven Tigers teams to championships, two behind her mother, Sheila Guerra, for whom Vicky played as a student at St. Philip. The Tigers' only title not won with Groat or Guerra at the helm was a 1979 win under the tutelage of Becky Emrich.

On Saturday, it was an attack of underclassmen leading the way for St. Philip (59-4-2). Junior Amanda McKinzie registered 16 kills, and sophomore Sierra Hubbard-Neil added 12 to lead the attack. Hubbard-Neil converted 12 of 23 attempts with only one error, hitting .478.

Directing the Tigers attack was junior setter Andrea Lesiow, distributing 30 assists.

Tri-unity (39-14-2) had no answer for the Tigers, who also played tremendous defense with nine blocks and 42 digs. The Defenders were led by junior Alyssa Petrick's 17 kills.

(Above) Big hitter: Morley-Stanwood senior Alexis Huntey winds up for one of her 30 kills in the Class C Final.
(Below) No. 1: Rockford, in its first MHSAA Final, claimed its first championship in the Class A title game. 

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)