Marian Avenges Season's Lone Loss in Clinching 3rd-Straight Title

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 19, 2022

BATTLE CREEK – Izzy Busignani spent most of the Division 1 Volleyball Final on Saturday smashing the ball through the court at Kellogg Arena.

But when it came time to close out Bloomfield Hills Marian’s third straight title, the sophomore went with finesse.

“I saw a triple block in front of me, and I saw that the defense was back on their heels, so I knew that if I tipped it short, it would either be out of system or it would go straight down,” Busignani said. “I was just kind of watching it and waiting to see what the result was.”

Busignani’s 27th kill on the day was a tip over the block that the Northville back line couldn’t control, ending a 22-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-11 victory for Marian. 

The win avenged top-ranked Marian’s only loss of the season, and gave the program its fifth Finals title.

“The biggest thing we talked about is that this is our home court,” Marian coach Mayssa Cook said. “Yes, we were the home team on the scoreboard, but we’ve been here now, our third year in a row, so this is our home court, and we knew we had that advantage. We had the experience of playing on this stage, in this gym. We know the way it smells, it looks, it feels, all that stuff.”

Northville’s Abby Reck (17) sends a kill attempt at Swanson and Ella Schomer (12).That experience came through in the third set, when Northville (47-4) looked to be in command, taking a 19-12 lead. The Kalamazoo Christian student section – waiting for its team to play in the Division 3 Final – had even joined the smaller group of students from Northville to put some more energy behind the Mustangs.

But Marian (49-1) got its own boost from the Pewamo-Westphalia students section, and rattled off seven straight points – six on the serve of senior Lauren Heming – to put Northville on its heels. Not long after, a pair of kills from Busignani closed out a 25-22 set and gave Marian a 2-1 lead.

“That’s not the first time that’s happened,” Marian senior setter Ava Sarafa said of the student section invasions. “Last year we were staying at the same hotel and we had multiple schools come and watch us from the stands. I thought the Marian students did a really good job of being loud, but adding that student section on both sides upped the amount of momentum that each team had. It didn’t increase the pressure, but it also just lightens the vibe and makes you really pumped up. It also fueled us a lot, having that extra support on our side.”

From there, Marian would roll, dominating the fourth set on its way to the title.

“I think they got mad,” Northville coach Sarah Lindstrom said of Marian. “A team like that, when they’re angry, is a scary team. You just kind of saw them realize, ‘We’re not going to let Northville do this to us.’ That’s at least how it felt for us. You have to give kudos to Mayssa for controlling their emotion and realizing a team that can be down to a team as good as mine, to get that many points and come back, you have to give credit to them.”

Busignani’s 27 kills led the Marian attack, and she also added 20 digs, tied for the team lead with Heming, who added four aces. Schomer added 14 kills and 17 digs, while Sarafa had 45 assists and 10 digs, and Molly Banta had 14 digs and three aces.

Marian celebrates its third-straight Finals victory. “Kids that don’t normally make spectacular digs and defensive plays were making them,” Cook said. “It was so beautiful to finally see us play the kind of defense – and I won’t name what schools – but there’s many times this season I said, ‘So and so plays defense like that,’ or ‘Their program is playing defense consistently point for point, there’s no reason we’re not, other than we’re choosing not to.’ It was so beautiful to see all our hitters be huge contributors in set 3 and 4, and all our defenders be contributors. Every kid went on a serving run. More than any year, this has felt like a true team effort.”

The Marian defense struggled to solve Northville star hitter Abby Reck early in the match, and she still managed to finish with 21 kills. But Marian eventually found a way.

“They started scrapping, they got a closed block,” Reck said. “We were out of system a lot. They started serving super aggressive, so our pass faltered a little bit. As soon as that happened, they can set up and it’s pretty hard to hit around. They’re a great team.”

Reck added 19 digs and three aces for Northville, which was making its first Finals appearance. Avry Nelson had 12 kills and three blocks, Taryn Rice had 20 digs, and Greta McKee and Ashlee Gnau each had 13.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Mckenzie Swanson (5) and Izzy Busignani (16) put up a block during the Mustangs’ Division 1 championship match win Saturday. (Middle) Northville’s Abby Reck (17) sends a kill attempt at Swanson and Ella Schomer (12). (Below) Marian celebrates its third-straight Finals victory.

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.)