Gabriel Richard Savors Flawless Finish

December 4, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

All that the Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard volleyball team accomplished this season is still sinking in. 

The Fighting Irish became the first Michigan high school team since Marysville in 1998-99 to finish as an undefeated MHSAA champion, rolling to a 42-0 record on the way to winning the Class B title. They achieved this milestone despite playing a schedule loaded with 21 teams ranked at some point in either Class A or Class B – including eventual Class A champion Novi.  

And Gabriel Richard did more than just win every match – it dominated, with a set record of 102-6. The Irish won all eight of their MHSAA Tournament matches 3-0. For the season, they beat teams by an average of 9.5 points per set; during the tournament, that average margin of victory bumped up to 11 points.

The program, which last won an MHSAA title in 1991, in Class D, finished a solid 22-7-1 in making the Class B Quarterfinals in 2014. But the jump to history-making, and in this dominating fashion, was extraordinary – and in addition to other accolades, earned Gabriel Richard the honor as November's Applebee's Team of the Month.

“I’ve been thinking back to all of those matches that were really, really close, and easily could’ve gone the other way. There’s something very special about this group of ladies,” said Gabriel Richard coach Mayssa Bazzi, a former standout at Dearborn High and Wayne State who finished her third season coaching the Irish. “Every single one of them is very humble. First and foremost, they’re just good girls. And I just think that helps.”

Each month during the 2015-16 school year, Applebee’s will recognize a Michigan high school team or teams not only for performances on the field of play, but also in the classroom and community.

Over the last two weeks, Bazzi has received congratulations from coaches throughout the state, and especially Gabriel Richard’s Detroit Catholic League. An observation by one who saw her team multiple times has stuck with Bazzi most.

The Irish had plenty of star power – senior Emily Tanski and junior Jurnee Tipton made the Class B all-state first team, while seniors Sydney Burton and Rachel Dunlavy made the second. But that opposing coach noted that the Irish didn’t have one player "full of herself," but instead all of the players were “full of our team.” That selflessness was something Bazzi knew to be true, but this coach put it into words she’ll continue to cherish.

That quality showed as the Fighting Irish took the opportunity to cheer on a former opponent only hours before playing for the Class B title. After word got out that Novi’s fan bus was unable to make the trip to Battle Creek for the MHSAA Finals because of snowy weather, the Gabriel Richard players filled in parts of two rows of the Novi student section at Kellogg Arena to help root on the Wildcats during their match against Romeo.

The successes continue off the court. The Irish carry a grade point average of 3.68, which earned them academic all-state honors from the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association, and three seniors earned academic all-state individual honors as well.

A number of Gabriel Richard players also are involved in athletic director Hally Yonko’s school health club that spreads awareness and education on health-related topics. As part of those efforts, they helped raise nearly $3,000 for the school’s annual cancer scholarship fund, led the prayer service after an all-school Mass and helped with the annual walk as well as participated in an activity for the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, which encourages smokers to quit.

“Their success brought us all together … our coaches, athletes, student body, parents, staff and community members,” Yonko said. “We would always say a prayer after each game as a team, and in the playoffs the whole student section began joining in – even during the state semi and finals behind the student section bleachers. It was great to witness and see our students supporting each other and the girls play for each other, their school, their families and God.”

Past Teams of the Month:
October: Benton Harbor football – Report

September: Mason and Okemos boys soccer – Report

PHOTO: Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard celebrates last month's Class B Semifinal win over Goodrich.

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.)