Battle Creek St. Philip Reaffirms its Place Atop Division 4

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 20, 2021

BATTLE CREEK – The state’s winningest volleyball program is back to doing what it does best – winning consecutive MHSAA Finals. 

Battle Creek St. Philip won its second-straight Division 4 volleyball title Saturday, sweeping Indian River Inland Lakes 25-17, 25-12, 25-8 at Kellogg Arena.  

"For me, it’s just a whole different aspect now, seeing those little girls up in the stands,” St. Philip senior Brooke Dzwik said. “That was us at one point. They’re going to be the legacy. It’s not us anymore, it’s them. To really win so that they could see means a lot.” 

St. Philip now has 22 Finals titles, including a record nine straight from 2007-14. If the win a year ago in a COVID-interrupted season wasn’t enough to prove the Tigers were back, Saturday’s dominant result should more than handle that. 

“Last year everyone thought that we didn’t deserve the championship,” St. Philip senior Bailey Fancher said. “This year, there was no COVID (pause), there was nothing stopping us, so we wanted to prove everyone wrong that we were made to win both last year and this year’s state championships.” 

St. Philip (40-11-1) entered the postseason ranked No. 3, and defeated No. 2 Athens in the Regional Final and No. 1 Adrian Lenawee Christian in the Quarterfinal just to get to Kellogg. Getting to play the underdog was a role the Tigers relished. 

“We were the underdog all last year, too,” said Dzwik, who was one of five starters who returned from last year’s team. “Part of it is the competitive nature in all of us, that we wanted to prove everyone wrong, that we shouldn’t be the underdog.” 

They were not the underdog Saturday, however, playing Finals newcomer Inland Lakes, which was coming off its first Regional title since 1995.

Inland Lakes (27-11-11) didn’t seem to be fazed by the moment early on, trading blows with the reigning champions, and even responding to a 4-0 run midway through the first set with a 4-0 run of its own, tying the score at 16. But following a timeout, St. Philip rattled off eight points in a row to take control and put the first set away. 

Battle Creek St. Philip volleyballFrom there, it was all Tigers. 

“Our hitting wasn’t as powerful today – I think they got a little nervous and frazzled as things weren’t going their way,” Inland Lakes coach Nicole Moore said. “That’s a solid team that has great hitters that we weren’t adjusting to and getting touches on. That’s been our goal the whole time, and it’s worked most of the time, but today we just weren’t able to get those touches that we needed on those big hitters.” 

For the Tigers, keeping the momentum when they got it was important, as St. Philip coach Vicki Groat didn’t want Inland Lakes to build confidence during the match. 

“That’s a good team, and watching them on Thursday, there was no intimidation for them,” Groat said. “They were playing relaxed, they had nothing to lose, and they were the underdogs. In this stage, if you have them down, you have to keep the momentum going, keep the pressure on until the very end. I thought we did a good job of that today.” 

Dzwik led the St. Philip attack with 14 kills, but Groat was impressed with how setter Rachel Myers spread the ball around throughout the match. Maddie Hoelscher (five kills), Alexis Snyder (five kills), Alex Kersten (four kills) and Makenzee Grimm (four kills) all helped to keep Inland Lakes off balance, and not allow it to focus solely on Dzwik. Kate Doyle led the St. Philip defense with 12 digs. 

Natalie Wandrie had five kills and 10 digs to lead Inland Lakes, while Ryann Clancy had 11 digs. Alyssa Byrne finished with eight assists, and Olivia Monthei had four kills. 

The disappointing finish didn’t take away from the historic season for the Bulldogs, as Byrne noted, “We played volleyball as long as we could.” 

“We talked about before the game, we made this visual where we have this outer ring of people – northern Michigan volleyball, we’re the only people here, right,” Moore said. “We were representing them. We were representing our conference, our region, because not a lot of northern Michigan teams make it down here. We were the smallest school and the farthest school away, and I think we had a lot of blue in the stands, so that was really cool to see.” 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) St. Philip’s Makenzee Grimm (8) gets up a block as Inland Lakes’ Olivia Monthei (6) makes a play on the ball. (Middle) The Tigers’ Brooke Dzwik (9) connects, with teammate Baily Fancher (13) nearby. (Photos by 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.)