Dakota Hammers Home First MHSAA Title

November 17, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – On one side of Saturday’s Class A Volleyball Final stood Temperance Bedford, with three MHSAA championships and led by the second-winningest coach in national high school volleyball history.

On the other sideline, Macomb Dakota prepared for its first championship game since the school opened in 1996, when most of the Cougars were just learning to walk.

That imbalance didn't end up deciding much on this day, but was certainly something Dakota considered before making its own history with a 25-22, 25-21, 26-24 win over the Kicking Mules.

It was truly a milestone run for the Cougars, who didn't give up a set during the entire tournament.

“We’d never played Bedford before. We'd never played (Semifinal opponent) Northville before. So I think it showed so much adaption for our team and so much depth that we could come in barely knowing anything about their teams, with 10 minutes of scouting video, and we can take them down in three,” Dakota junior hitter Carli Snyder said.

“It’s ideal for that to happen, but it doesn’t happen very often. Great teams drop games because they play badly, but we didn’t (through the tournament) because we kept playing tough the entire time. It’s incredible.”

Seemingly everyone in Battle Creek knew Snyder would be on the attack.

But that hasn’t helped opponents the University of Florida-bound standout all season. And it didn’t make much difference at Kellogg Arena.

Snyder, in just three sets, had 31 kills – third-most in an MHSAA Final since the beginning of the rally scoring era in 2004-05.

Bedford had survived the Semifinal against Grand Haven despite 20 kills by Miss Volleyball runner-up Abby Cole. But Snyder was unstoppable when it counted most.

She killed the final two points of the first game and the final point of the second. With Dakota trailing by three in the third, Snyder had three straight kills to make it 14-14. Her final attempt of the day was dug – but Bedford’s return went wide down the right side.

“We just had to adjust to her and learn from her and get better,” Bedford sophomore middle Nicole Rightnowar said. “She hit where we weren’t, and it was really hard to block her.”

The Cougars have learned a lot in short time. Only three seasons ago, Dakota finished 19-27-3 in coach Tracie Ferguson’s second year.

But the former Clinton Township Chippewa Valley standout (who later played at Wayne State) led the Cougars to a near reverse of that record in 2010 before guiding them to the first of two straight Regional titles last fall.

Dakota entered the District this season ranked No. 3 and finished 59-5.

“When I played in high school, it was Bedford and Jodi (Manore) was still coaching. And honestly, coming into tonight, I knew she was the coach and knew they had a great team, a very technical team … and I gave the girls that input that, ‘Hey, they know how to play volleyball,’” Ferguson said. “Bedford is a big volleyball school. But at the same time, we’ve come a long way. What we’ve accomplished and built on, we were right there with them.”

Bedford’s run was equally exceptional considering that although the Kicking Mules were ranked as high as No. 6 this fall, they entered the tournament an honorable mention.

Bedford finished 65-13-3, with Manore now 1,679-283-48 over an incredible 28-year career – and with four of Saturday’s starters set to come back next season.

“If you look back and ask a lot of the teams we played this year if we were going to be state runners-up, I don’t think too many would’ve picked us,” Manore said. “We came up a little short once we got here, but we beat two really good teams to get to the Finals in Mercy and Grand Haven. I think we came up against not only a team with the best player we’ve played all year, but her supporting cast stepped up I think a lot bigger than we saw (Friday).

“Give her 31 (kills). But there were some other kids there that had quite a few, and that was our problem.”

Dakota junior setter Megan Manuerski had 43 assists, good to tie for 13th on the MHSAA Finals record list. Snyder also had 14 digs and senior outside hitter Megan Downey had 19.

Sophomore outside hitter Kayla Gwozdz had 14 kills to lead Bedford and Rightnowar had 10. Junior setter MacKenzie Andrews had 37 assists and senior libero Ellen Hays had 18 digs. Senior Lexie Curtis added 10.

Click for the box score. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Macomb Dakota junior Carli Snyder prepares to unload on a set during Saturday's Class A Final. (Middle) Temperance Bedford's Nicole Rightnowar puts down one of her 11 kills. 

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.)