34 Seasons of Volleyball Battles

October 20, 2011

BATTLE CREEK – There’s a good deal of talk that goes around Battle Creek’s volleyball community every fall.  And with a significant amount of talent concentrated in such a small area, there’s plenty to say.

Starting in 1979, the last words for a season often have come at Battle Creek’s All-City Tournament.

Battle Creek Central, Lakeview, Pennfield, Harper Creek and St. Philip played in the 34th All-City on Oct. 15 at Pennfield High. All five schools have won the event multiple times, and St. Philip became the latest champion with a 25-22, 25-5 win over Lakeview in this fall’s final.

“It’s a big deal because there are rivalries everywhere,” said Pennfield senior Cassie Pelloni, who played in her fourth and final All-City. “It’s who wants to beat who, and that’s what it comes down to.

“You want to beat the certain teams that have been talking all season.”

A field of five teams from the same town is the basic starting point of this tournament’s charm. Those teams also represent three leagues and three of four state classes. Battle Creek Central and Lakeview are Class A – both with nearly 1,400 students total -- while Harper Creek and Pennfield are B. St. Philip is Class D and has an enrollment of 120.

What adds most to the intrigue is the combined success of Battle Creek’s volleyball teams. Three of the five have won state titles (St. Phil has 16, Pennfield two and Lakeview one), but only 10 of those 19 state championship teams also won the All-City during those respective season. This fall’s tournament included standout individuals like Pelloni, a 6-foot-1 hitter who will sign with Oakland, and returning St. Philip all-staters Amanda McKinzie and Sierra Hubbard-Neil. McKenzie, a 6-0 junior hitter, has committed to sign with Virginia Tech; Hubbard-Neil is a 5-9 sophomore hitter and getting similar college attention.

St. Philip is ranked No. 1 in Class D again and Pennfield is tied for first in the Kalamazoo Valley Association heading into Tuesday’s match against Class C No. 1 Delton Kellogg. Harper Creek is coming off of a Class B district title last season and Lakeview and Central both have won Class A district titles at least once during the last five seasons.

Part of the mystique of Battle Creek volleyball dates directly to the leader for whom the championship trophy is named – former Kellogg Community College coach Mick Haley, who led KCC from 1973-79 and guided the Bruins to junior college national championships in his final two seasons. He then moved on to Texas and then Southern California and has won a combined four NCAA national titles with those schools. He’s in his 11th season at USC.

The All-City has been part of St. Philip coach Vicky Groat’s volleyball seasons going back to her own high school career.  She graduated from St. Philip in 1985 and was a senior when the Tigers won the All-City for the first time since 1984. She’s also led St. Philip to six All-City wins as its coach.

“It’s the bragging rights for the year, and a lot of these girls are friends with others on the teams,” Groat said. “Win it, (and) we’re the best in the city. I don’t care what class it is, it’s nice as a player to be able to win one, and as a coach to win a few. And being the only Class D team in the city, it’s kinda nice.”

St. Philip has won the event 11 times – including the last four seasons – followed by Lakeview with eight titles, Pennfield with seven, Central with six and Harper Creek with 2. There’s little secret that these days, St. Philip is the team to beat.

“Oh yeah, we know. We kinda like that. We’re just encouraged to do better,” McKinzie said.

“I feel like it’s a lot different (than other tournaments we play) because we know a little better how everyone plays. We know what we have to do.”

Pool play
Pennfield d. Central 25-11, 25-7
St. Philip d. Harper Creek 25-17, 25-13
Lakeview d. Harper Creek 25-25, 25-18
St. Philip split with Pennfield 25-18, 24-26
Harper Creek split with Pennfield 25-20, 30-32
Lakeview d. Central 25-11, 25-12
Lakeview d. Pennfield 25-23, 25-23
St. Philip d. Central 25-14, 25-17
Harper Creek d. Central 25-16, 26-24
St. Philip d. Lakeview 25-22, 25-12
St. Philip d. Harper Creek 25-9, 25-8
Lakeview d. Pennfield 25-23, 25-20
St. Philip d. Lakeview 25-22, 25-5

Battle Creek Enquirer event coverage

(Top) Fire away: Battle Creek Lakeview’s Lydia Drikakis serves against Battle Creek St. Philip during pool play of this fall’s All-City Tournament at Pennfield High.

(Trophy) Serve it up: The Mick Haley award, named after the former Kellogg Community College and current Southern California coach, is given to the champion of the annual Battle Creek All-City Tournament.

Set it up: Battle Creek Harper Creek’s Megan Gwathney (6) and Lexi Latshaw (9) prepare to hit while teammate Olivia Black (10) readies at the net during a pool play game against Battle Creek Central.

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.)