Long Wait Ends For Lakewood

November 17, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – The Lake Odessa Lakewood volleyball team won the award Saturday at Kellogg Arena for most emotion shown after an MHSAA championship win.

Senior Emily Kutch was in tears as coach Kellie Rowland charged onto the court and grabbed her and senior Olivia Davis. Rowland and her assistants – husband Clair and former head coach Jeff Duits – then met for another hug as a few decades of almost-there dissolved into distant memory.

Those three – and a number of these players – have been at this championship chase for a while. But the Vikings finally got their title with a 25-20, 25-18, 25-17 victory over perennial power North Branch.

Rowland has brought Lakewood to the season’s final week seven more times during a 15-year career that has stretched over two tenures and includes 787 wins. But with four four-year varsity players on the court, she and a large group of fans and alumni finally got to celebrate ending with a victory for the first time.

“We worked so hard for this. Everybody’s been saying this was the year, this is the team to win it all. And we did,” Kutch said. “Just winning in three (sets), and dominating like that. All of us seniors; there are seven of us and we’ve been together forever. And I think that carried the emotion too.”

Lakewood finished 52-4 to cap its first trip back to Battle Creek since the final winter season, in 2007. The Vikings had played in one other championship game, in 1995, when they lost to Stevensville Lakeshore.

Lakewood thought for a moment that it had earned the first point of Saturday’s match, but a close call went North Branch’s way. The Broncos actually got off to a 2-0 start in that first set – but Lakewood would outlast them to take it, 25-20.

Both Kutch and Broncos coach Jim Fish agreed that first game was key. Lakewood seemed to build momentum in winning the second 25-18, and then closed out the title with a 25-17 win capped by a final kill by Kutch that touched just before the back line on the Broncos' side.

Kutch and Davis, two of those four-year seniors, had 18 and 14 kills, respectively. At 6-foot and 6-1 they had a slight height advantage on their opponents, and took advantage.

“Oh my gosh, I didn’t want it to go into a fourth game. The heart can only take so much, and I’m not very young,” Rowland said. “They just really executed and did what they needed to do to beat them.

“We have the size, we have the speed and we have the quickness. And Brooke Wieland, out setter, really felt it in warm-ups. Our hitters were like, ‘Just keep setting baby, because it’s right where we need it.’”

Wieland and libero Beth Tingley also were four-year varsity seniors. Weiland had 31 assists and 11 digs in the Final, and Tingley had 11 digs as she helped key a defensive adjustment meant to combat North Branch’s strong outside attack.

The Broncos (68-8-1) got 11 kills from senior Micaela Deshetsky and 13 digs from senior libero Rachel Fish, who were both contributors when the team finished Class B runner-up in 2010. This was its third trip to Battle Creek in four seasons – North Branch won the title in 2009.

“I couldn’t be here my freshman year because I was sick, but when we lost my sophomore year there was a bitter taste, so we were ready to be back,” said Fish, a daughter of the coach. “All our emotions, everyone’s heart was really in it. We wanted it bad. But they were really good. Lakewood played really well against us.”

And neither was able to dodge the other contenders. The Vikings were ranked  No. 1 coming into the tournament and North Branch was No. 2. Lakewood then beat the Nos. 3, 6 and 7 teams to make it to the end, while the Broncos eliminated Nos. 4 and 5 plus two honorable mentions to get to this point.  

“We had a rough road to be able to get here, and I’m extremely proud of what they’ve done,” Jim Fish said. “There is not a negative involved in this. It was very positive, a great run, what high school athletics is all about.

“It’s what we talked about. There’s always going to be a winner and always going to be a loser. Our team wants to win just as badly as you do. As long as you understand that and keep it in perspective, you’re a winner. And that’s what these kids are.”

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Lakewood players Emily Kutch (2), Beth Tingley (10), Jordan Kietzman (17) and Brooke Wieland (6) celebrate a point during Saturday's Class B Final. (Middle) North Branch's Ally Ruhlman (2) sets up a teammate. 

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.)