Kestrels Prove to be Champions Again

November 17, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – Taylor Vuich and her teammates have learned to ride the wave of a good omen.

And so, when her hotel room was the first among Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central’s to wake up Saturday morning, and their favorite song was playing when they flipped on the radio, the Kestrels just knew “today was the day.”

Saturday was the day St. Mary got back the MHSAA Class C championship after coming within three points of a second-straight title one year ago.

The Kestrels claimed their second championship in three seasons and fourth overall with a 25-14, 24-26, 25-10 and 25-9 win over first-time finalist Traverse City St. Francis at Kellogg Arena.

“We got all the way here last year, (played) two and half hours, and then it just slipped away from us,” Vuich said. “They were a great team, but I think we knew this year that this is what we wanted. We wanted to prove to everyone that we’re state champions.”

It’s fair to call the 2011 Class C Final epic. All five games were decided by three or fewer points, with Morley-Stanwood claiming the last 15-12.

With now five championship game appearances over the last 11 seasons, it’s also fair to say the Kestrels (49-6) set high expectations heading into every fall – even if that might’ve turned a little dangerous earlier this week.

“When we talk about goals at the beginning of the year, they talk about getting back here,” St. Mary coach Diane Tuller said of her players. “I talk about the first game of the season, (that) this is where we want to be midway and this is where we want to be toward the end; this is what we need to keep working on. That’s the important thing to me. They set those goals, and I have to keep bringing them back.

“I think we overlooked the team we played in the Quarterfinals (Auburn Hills Oakland Christian). It was our worst game of the year. Everything shut down. … (But) our senior captains really wanted it, and they kept them focused. I gave them the job of keeping this team together.”

And they got back together quickly after the Gladiators took a close second set.

St. Mary scored the first 10 points of the third game and then jumped out to a 10-1 lead in the fourth.

And when junior McKenzie Todd and sophomore Cassandra Haut combined to simultaneously crush the winning point straight into the floor, it was a strong lasting impression of how those last two games had gone.

Haut, an all-state honorable mention as a freshman, finished with a team-high 16 kills from her powerful right arm. Vuich, swinging a hammer with her left, added 13 kills and eight digs, and Todd had 10 kills.  

Senior Claire McMillan had 46 assists, tied for ninth-most in a Final since the beginning of the rally scoring era in 2004-05. Junior Kelsey Geiman – beating the previous record by five (and the record from before rally scoring by seven).

"We are really deep, in all our players. We have a lot of good hitters on our team,” Haut said. “We can always count on anyone on our team.”

St. Francis finished 42-8-3, impressive all the more because co-coaches Heather Simpson and Rita Jones didn't take over until a month before practice began.

They moved up from coaching the junior varsity after the former varsity coach resigned to take another full-time job.

“Our kids don’t quit, and I don’t think how we played today is really a reflection of how good we were, or are,” Simpson said. “From that aspect, it’s disappointing. But hats off to them. They’re a good team, and we are too, but we couldn't match them.”

St. Francis senior Bridget Bussell just missed getting into the Finals records as well, with her 18 kills just two short of that list. She also had six digs, and senior setter Katilyn Hegawald had seven and 26 assists.

“We just never got into our groove, except for the game we won,” Bussell said.

(But) we knew we were here for a reason, so we tried as hard as we could to keep pushing.”

Click for the box score. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Monroe St. Mary sophomore Cassandra Haut (13) covers a kill attempt by Traverse City St. Francis during the Class C Final. (Middle) St. Francis senior Kaitlyn Hegawald (9) prepares to set up teammate Olivia Hardy (4). 

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.)