Irish Cap Dominating Run to Class B Win

November 23, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball coach Betty Wroubel has won 772 matches over the last 20 seasons. She had brought one other team to an MHSAA championship game, the eventual Class B champion in Fall 2007.

But it’s a fair argument none of her best dominated quite like her Fighting Irish did this fall in finishing off their second MHSAA title – although they had to win one of their toughest matches to finish the run.

Notre Dame, the top-ranked team at the start of the tournament, beat No. 3 North Branch in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal, then No. 2 Wayland in the semi before surviving a late surge by No. 5 Grand Rapids South Christian to win the championship match Saturday in four sets, 25-15, 25-19, 19-25, 25-23.

After falling behind two sets to none, the Sailors (46-12-1) simply wouldn’t go away – and nearly drew even in the fourth after trailing by as many as five points. 

But the Irish’s dominant front line was just a little too much to overcome as it finished with 60 kills – good to tie for eighth-most in MHSAA Finals history during the rally-scoring era.  

“We’ve been through so many challenges and all of these teams that we’ve been playing, and our team chemistry is just so amazing; we can just trust each other and be confident with ourselves,” Notre Dame junior hitter Katherine Carlson said. “We finished because we can really just trust each other on the court. We were getting our passes, getting our sets (and) we could just go up, be confident, be aggressive and swing.”

Notre Dame’s only losses this fall were to Class A Semifinalist Temperance Bedford and honorable mention Lake Orion. But it wasn’t until the North Branch win Tuesday that Wroubel became convinced her Irish were prepared to finish the week with the program’s second title.

Carlson had with 25 kills Saturday, tying for ninth-most in an MHSAA Final, followed by senior Dani McCormick with 17 and junior Jenna Sassack with 12. The Irish (62-2-1) also had the sixth-most assists in a Finals, 58, and piled up 85 digs with four in double figures led by sophomore Emma Kowalkowski with 20 – tied for 10th most in Finals history.

In the last set alone, Carlson responded to five South Christian points with kills, while McCormick ended two rallies.

“What Katherine Carlson does just amazes me sometimes on the court. I don’t know how she has that court sense, how she knows sometimes where to put the ball. There’s some rallies, and the other team is getting some confidence, and she comes up and puts the ball on the floor and brings it back to us,” Wroubel said. “And Dani McCormick the last four to six weeks has been outstanding.

“In volleyball, if you have one good player out there, you’re tough to beat. You have a couple of them, and you’re going to have to play some darn good defense to knock them off.”

But as the match went on, South Christian’s strengthened. The record book will list a few Sailors performances as well – their 10 blocks make the list, with junior Ashley VanderHorst’s seven ranking among the top individual totals.

South Christian coach Allison Sagraves called Notre Dame the toughest team hers played in the tournament, but the Sailors hung tough after the disappointing start.

That was characteristic of the team’s season. It lost a key middle blocker for the rest of the fall on Oct. 24, which could’ve sunk the Sailors – but instead became a turning point. South Christian was in a bit of a lull at that point, but emerged and didn’t give up a set in the postseason until the championship match.

“I thought we kept fighting no matter what, and the end of Game 4 just showed what these girls have. Just because they had 24, that didn’t mean we were going to roll over and end it,” Sagraves said. “We fought right back, and we really believed we were going to come back and win.

“We talked about that in our timeouts: We’re fighters, and we’re not going to quit, and we’re going to force them to beat us.”

Five seniors started for South Christian, and hitter Taylor Wierenga finished her final high school match with 17 kills, while Cassidy Vredevoogd had 13 and middle Danielle Oeverman had 10. Senior setter Emily Blankespoor had 41 assists, and five Sailors had double-digit digs: Blankespoor and sophomore Abbie Porter with 14 apiece, Vredevoogd with 12 (along with five blocks) and senior Morgan Torres and junior Clarissa VanderHoning with 10 apiece.

Junior Ashley Knutson had 36 assists and 12 digs for Notre Dame, while Carlson added 13 digs and junior Bella Bucchi had 17. Junior Hannah Antosz added 20 assists.

Click for full statistics.

PHOTOS: (Middle) Pontiac Notre Dame Prep hitter Katherine Carlson follows through as her teammates anticipate a kill during Saturday’s championship match. (Middle) The Irish celebrate their first MHSAA championship since 2007. (Below) South Christian’s Danielle Oeverman sends the ball toward the net as two Notre Dame blockers prepare to deflect it.

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.)