Believe it: Mercy Nets 2nd Finals Title with 'Unbelievable' Comeback

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 18, 2023

BATTLE CREEK – Loretta Vogel had a single word to describe Farmington Hills Mercy’s five-set victory Saturday in the Division 1 Volleyball Final: Unbelievable.

“When we played Marian, to me, that was everything for me,” the Mercy coach said of her team’s Quarterfinal win over the 2022 Division 1 champion. “We planned, we knew what we wanted to do, and we went in there and it was three games – bing, bang, boom, here we go.

“Then it’s like, ‘We’re going to Battle Creek.’ We did our scouting reports, then to get in the Finals, to be down two games, such adversity, unbelievable. I don’t know if it’s going to hit me for six months, what we accomplished. It was unbelievable.”

After dropping the first two sets, Mercy came back to defeat Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 13-25, 23-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-12 at Kellogg Arena, adding a second championship to the program’s first won in 2019.

The Marlins’ Kate Kalczynski (2) connects on a kill attempt with Kendall Hopewell (9) and Riley Loehfelm (16) putting up a block.The Marlins finished the season with a 32-15-3 record and entered the postseason outside the top 10 in Division 1. With just two seniors on the roster, three sophomores in the starting lineup and a freshman as one of their leading hitters, one can start to see how Vogel arrived at “unbelievable.”

Of course, on Saturday, they didn’t play like a young, unranked team, especially after going down two sets.

“I think we were a little timid in the first set,” said Mercy junior setter Campbell Flynn, who is committed to Nebraska. “It was our first time actually being in the Finals, so we were all a little nervous. But I think we stayed composed later in the set, and also kept rallies alive.”

Flynn put on a masterclass in game management, finishing with 41 assists, but doing so much more than that.

“Campbell Flynn took over the match,” Northern coach Valerie Lurye said. “We put a lot of our gameplan to making sure (Flynn) couldn’t score, and forcing her to do things like setting other kids. And the other kids showed up. … We forced her to have to do something different, which is what we wanted to do. We did really well Set 2, then Set 3 and 4 she caught on. She’s going to Nebraska for a simple reason, and that’s because she’s able to be someone who takes over the match and understands, ‘Hey, I can’t dump the ball right now. I have other people I have to go to.’ Her movement of the ball is what really threw us off our gameplan.”

The biggest beneficiary of Campbell’s ball movement was freshman Kate Kalczynski, who finished the match with a game-high 25 kills. Five of those kills came during the fifth set.

FHN’s Madalin Hersman (6) and Flynn meet at the net. “Kate, she played amazing today,” Flynn said. “I literally just had to set her the ball and she got kills. I’m so proud of her. She’s only a freshman, but she played a big role. I was just so beyond proud of her.”

Cree Hollier added 10 kills for Mercy, while Angie Butler – playing with a torn meniscus suffered over the summer – had seven kills and 22 digs. One of Butler’s kills came off a wild scramble late in the fourth set and gave her team a 20-18 lead. It was the first bit of distance Mercy was able to create in what had been a back-and-forth set – which the Marlins went on to win.

Vogel said her team started to play like it had nothing to lose after the first two sets, and that flurry certainly backed up that assertion.

The change in attitude and energy didn’t go unnoticed on the other side of the net.

“I would say they just really turned up their energy,” Northern senior Elana Erickson said. “The first two sets, they didn’t have a lot of energy and they couldn’t really serve and pass. They really turned it up though in the third, fourth and fifth set.”

Erickson, who will play at Western Michigan next year, finished with 22 kills and 27 digs to lead Northern (45-8-1). Kendall Hopewell added 16 kills, 11 digs and seven total blocks, while Lexie Stotenbur had 41 assists. 

Jillian Collins had 24 digs for Mercy, while Flynn added 15.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Farmington Hills Mercy surrounds Campbell Flynn (28) in celebration Saturday at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) The Marlins’ Kate Kalczynski (2) connects on a kill attempt with Kendall Hopewell (9) and Riley Loehfelm (16) putting up a block. (Below) FHN’s Madalin Hersman (6) and Flynn meet at the net. (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.)