GR Christian Runs Finals Win Streak to 3

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

January 16, 2021

BATTLE CREEK – Grand Rapids Christian volleyball coach Tiffannie Gates said she knew Lake Odessa Lakewood wanted another crack at her team in this season’s Division 2 Final. 

Lakewood earned that opportunity, but it was the Eagles who walked out of Kellogg Arena as champions. 

Grand Rapids Christian defeated Lakewood 25-20, 25-20, 25-19 Saturday to claim its third-straight Finals title. 

“I think each year has had its own special meaning to me as a coach with these championships,” Gates said. “This year, with this group of seniors, has a very special place in my heart – they all do – but they’ve been here, most of them, from Day 1 as freshmen. Just to see their determination to social distance and not go to parties and make sure they could get to this day, you don’t see that very often from kids this age. It really moved me.

“Our message today in the locker room was love each other above all else, and if we do that, we’re going to be fine.” 

It’s the third title in as many Finals trips for the Grand Rapids Christian program – and second straight against Lakewood – and after the match, the players were sporting shirts that had been made up for the occasion, which read, “Our tweets 3-peat.” 

“I can’t even really put it into words right now, I don’t think,” Grand Rapids Christian senior Lauren Peal said. “It’s still kind of setting in that that just happened, if I’m being honest. It’s just an overwhelming feeling of the love from our teammates every single year, and the support that we have for each other. How we go into this game is 100 percent loving on each other and being there for each other the whole entire time. That whole entire game, we were playing for each other. I think that over any other feeling is what comes out of this, the overwhelming feeling of love you have during this game.” 

Lakewood coach Cameron Rowland said it was Grand Rapids Christian’s multi-dimensional attack that gave his team problems, specifically the contributions from middle hitters Stephanie Stewart and Kate Breems, who had nine and four kills, respectively.  

Much of the credit for that goes to setter Alyssa DeVries, who had 43 assists while spreading the ball around the court. 

“I think she had the best match of her season tonight,” Gates said. “She had big shoes to fill, and she came in and she worked her butt off. We did extra practice with her every day of the regular season. She transformed into a completely different player from the first day until today. I am extremely proud of her.” 

Addie VanderWeide led the Eagles’ attack with 19 kills, while Evie Doezema had 16. Peal added 17 digs, while VanderWeide had 11. 

It was VanderWeide and Doezema that Rowland said he was expecting to have to deal with, and while they had strong matches, the rest of the Eagles’ attack was enough to get his team off rhythm. 

“When we got the ball to the net to (Lakewood setter Skylar Bump), they served really, really well so we were scrambling a little more than we were used to,” Rowland said. “We’ve been the team that’s been in system all year, and they kind of took that away from us with their ability to do what they did from the service line.” 

Aubrey O’Gorman led Lakewood with 17 kills, while Maradith O’Gorman added eight kills and 15 digs. Bump had 23 assists and 14 digs, and Carley Piercefield had 14 digs. 

“I’m just so incredibly honored to play in a program that is able to get to this point every single year, year after year,” Aubrey O’Gorman said. “It has been established that we will be here in November every single year – or January – and I’m just so incredibly honored to be a part of that.” 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) A pair of Lakewood blockers defend against a Grand Rapids Christian kill attempt Saturday night at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) Maradith O’Gorman keeps a ball in play for the Vikings. (Click for more from 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.)