Eagles End Phenomenal Fall as Repeat Champ

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

November 23, 2019

BATTLE CREEK – Tiffannie Gates couldn’t hold back the tears Saturday. 

The Grand Rapids Christian volleyball coach had just watched her team win a second-straight Division 2 title, sweeping Lake Odessa Lakewood 25-21, 25-15, 25-16, which is emotional enough. She also had just finished her last game as coach of her daughter, Jordyn, who shined in her final game as an Eagle. 

“It’s really bittersweet right now to think I’m done coaching her,” Tiffannie Gates said. “You couldn’t ask for a better ending. It’s been pretty neat.” 

The Grand Rapids Christian program closed out an incredible run with another dominant showing at Kellogg Arena, sweeping the No. 2 team in the Final for the second straight year. The top-ranked Eagles actually swept both matches at Kellogg, also just like a year ago – defeating Kingsley in the Semifinal – and finished 46-3, dropping just 10 sets all season. 

All while carrying around the target that comes with being the reigning champion. 

“Every team came to play against us,” junior outside hitter Addison VanderWeide said. “No matter who they were, they came to play their best volleyball. We definitely felt that, but we were able to push through and stay on top.” 

At the center of it was Jordyn, a Miss Volleyball finalist who will play at Arkansas next season. The 5-foot-10 senior setter came into the weekend with more than 1,000 assists on the season, and finished Saturday’s match with 39 assists, 13 digs and six kills.  

For her, it was also a bittersweet moment. 

“It was really emotional this morning, last time ever being coached by her,” Jordyn said. “She’s my biggest inspiration. Being able to play for her and having her coaching me and pushing me every single day. Even today she was still telling me things I needed to work on. It never stopped. She’s definitely my biggest inspiration, so it’s been awesome sharing this journey with her.” 

Jordyn spread the ball around enough to keep Lakewood off balance Saturday night, as Ayva Kooistra and Evelyn Doezema each had six kills. But it was clear that VanderWeide was her main target, and she came through in a big way. VanderWeide had 28 kills on 55 attack attempts for a .436 attack percentage. 

“I even knew before we even showed up that she was going to have the game of her life,” Jordyn said. “She was fired up and I knew to just dish the ball to Addi, she’s the girl on fire. Keep dishing it to her no matter what, she’s who we have to dish it to, and she was unstoppable tonight. I’m so proud of her.” 

Lakewood (40-13) did come out strong, building a 13-9 lead in the first set. But Grand Rapids Christian responded to close out the set before controlling much of the rest of the match. 

“Our strength this year has just been playing very evenly – not getting too high or too low,” Tiffannie Gates said. “I just said, ‘You know what, you’re fine. We’re just going to go out there and play defense and serve tough and pass well and focus on your game, one point at a time.’ That’s been our motto all season, one point at a time. Don’t project, ‘What if we don’t win? We’re supposed to win.’ So we’re really trying to focus on the one point at a time.” 

Tiffannie Gates said the goal for the Eagles coming into the match was to try and slow down the O’Gorman sisters. While they did have some success, the plan worked for the most part. Aubrey O’Gorman led Lakewood with 11 kills on the night, while Maradith O’Gorman had 10 kills and 10 digs. Skylar Bump added 25 assists for the Vikings. 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids Christian’s Addison VanderWeide (14) launches a kill attempt during Saturday’s Division 2 Final. (Middle) Evelyn Doezema tips the ball over the block of Lakewood’s Jaizah Pyle.

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.)