Amid Loss, Marian Closes Out Inspired Win

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

January 16, 2021

BATTLE CREEK – One of the great moments at the end of any MHSAA Final is the winning coach hoisting the trophy aloft and joining their players in celebration. 

On Saturday, Bloomfield Hills Marian volleyball coach Mayssa Cook passed on that moment, and in the process made it even more special for all involved. 

Cook handed the honor off to Jacqui Feldman, the daughter of Dave Feldman, the Marian athletic director who died Thursday after a long battle with COVID-19.

“It was so special,” Marian junior outside hitter Ava Brizard said. “Me, Sara Sylvester and Sophie Treder played with her our freshman year, so we know the Feldman family really well. It was so devastating to hear that he passed away the night before we were supposed to go to Battle Creek, because he was just as competitive as we were the whole season. He loved volleyball so much, and we know that. It was just kind of more fuel to our fire to win a state championship, as if we didn’t have enough already, to win it for him and win it for her. It was just so special for her to give us that trophy, because we were like, ‘We did it for your dad.’” 

The players had Feldman in their hearts as they defeated Lowell 25-17, 25-20, 25-19 in the Division 1 Final at Kellogg Arena. It’s the Mustangs’ third title, and first since 2010. 

“I think this whole season, it was just about resilience,” Brizard said. “Starting off in August, we didn’t get to start right away and we had to practice in the muddy water on the beach and the grass. We just dealt with all the punches that came our way this season, so to finally get here to Battle Creek and win the whole thing and play the way we did out there and play so amazing, it feels like all of our hard work paid off. Especially with Mr. Feldman passing, we feel so grateful that we can win it for him, and we know he’s definitely smiling and jumping around up in heaven, cheering us on.” 

Marian (35-5) was solid in all phases, but Brizard’s dominance at the net was too much for Lowell to contain. She finished with 29 kills compared to just four errors on 52 attacks. Her last three kills provided the final three points of the match. 

“We do call her our finisher, our closer,” Cook said. “It’s one of those things they know that if she’s in the front row, we’re going to fight to keep her in the front row. Obviously, we have capable hitters all around. It’s nice, because she’s probably hitting close to .500 on the season, so at the end of the day, the odds are that one out of two balls is likely to be a kill. Let’s just play those odds.” 

Brizard was fed by Ava Sarafa, who finished the match with 39 assists. Ella Schomer added eight kills and 11 digs for the Mustangs, while Lauren Heming had 15 digs.  

Marian’s entire roster is eligible to come back next season, and while that’s nice to think about now, it was something that drove Cook and her team all season. 

“A reporter was already talking about next year, and I said, ‘I don’t know why you’re talking about next year. This year’s not over, and we have a mission, we have a goal,’” Cook said. “I went back to the team and said, ‘This is what this reporter said, can you believe it?’ We grab little things as coaches, and we use it as fuel to push them to go beyond their comfort zone.” 

Lowell (35-5) was led by Jenna Reitsma, who had 22 kills, while Emily Struckmeyer had 10. Sophie Powell finished with 32 assists, and Emma Hall had 17 digs.  

“(Reitsma) is phenomenal; she’s special,” Lowell coach Jordan Drake said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever coach a hitter like her again. She’s the best of the best. At the same time, she doesn’t get the kills she does without a good pass. She doesn’t get the kills she does without a good set. These three (seniors Reitsma, Powell and Hall) are like sisters, and it’s not just Jenna, it’s the whole team.” 

It was the second straight Finals appearance for Lowell, and while neither ended with a title, that success has elevated the program to a new level. 

“It’s just really cool to see the support from our community,” Reitsma said. “And all of the younger girls that we can have an impression on, and see how they grow up to be, and just how they watch us. It’s going to be amazing to come back and watch the program over the years to see what an impact we had, because all the little girls out there that watch us play have big dreams to do what we do, too. It’s really cool, and I’m hoping they can keep that legacy going.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Ava Brizard sends a kill attempt during Saturday’s Division 1 Final. (Middle) Lowell’s Jenna Reitsma controls possession. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)