Marian Meets Championship Expectation in Finishing Repeat Run

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 20, 2021

BATTLE CREEK – Winning the MHSAA Division 1 Volleyball Finals title was the expectation for Bloomfield Hills Marian. 

Not just Saturday, when that expectation became reality with a 25-18, 22-25, 25-18, 25-19 win against Ann Arbor Skyline. Not just as the postseason began.

That was the expectation from the time the ball was rolled onto the court for the Mustangs’ first practice in August.  

“Although it was a goal, that never made us get complacent or get lazy,” Marian senior and Miss Volleyball winner Ava Brizard said. “We always worked our butts off like we were the underdogs, like we were the last-ranked team in the state. We always worked so hard even though people were expecting us to go back-to-back. But we just kept setting that bar higher and higher for ourselves, and I think that’s what really helped us get to this moment right here.” 

The title was the second straight for Marian, and fourth in program history. The Mustangs rolled through the season as Division 1’s top team, going 53-1, and dropping just four sets coming into Saturday’s matchup. All this with a giant target on their collective back. 

“I felt this enormous amount of pressure all season,” Marian coach Mayssa Cook said. “As a coach you like to think you have more control than you do. I tried to carry as much of it for them – I knew they had a lot on their plate and a lot on them. I will say I was so impressed with their composure and how they handled stress all season long. I absolutely know the four seniors on this team (Brizard, Janiah Jones, Sophie Treder and Sarah Sylvester) are very ready to step into playing roles at the next level. Most girls going into college don’t have this level of experience, level of play under pressure that they have had. So, we’re exceptionally proud of them as a school.” 

Marian did not play like a team under pressure, running out to a double-digit lead in the first set and winning comfortably. But Skyline (55-4-2) came roaring back in the second with an attack led by Harper Murray and Cari Bohm, and handed the Mustangs just their fifth set loss of the season. 

“I think we just have the offense that has the ability to compete with them,” Bohm said. “With Harper and me, we have some big hitters – Kate (Maley) -- they haven’t seen that competition yet.” 

Bloomfield Hills Marian/Ann Arbor Skyline volleyballMarian responded to the rare setback, and while Skyline hung tough for most of the final two sets, Marian simply had too much down the stretch. 

“Throughout the game, more of in the second and the later sets, we figured out that their right side defense wasn’t as strong, so we started targeting that,” Skyline senior setter Lauren Lee said. “Toward the end of that last set, they kind of caught onto what we were doing and polished it up.” 

Brizard and Murray put on the show they were expected to provide as two of the state’s best attackers, each finishing with 25 kills. Brizard was backed by Treder’s nine kills for Marian, while Ella Schomer had six and Jones and Sylvester each had five. 

Ava Sarafa had 44 assists and 12 digs for the Mustangs, who played solid team defense. Brizard led the team with 13 digs, while Lauren Heming had 12 and Treder had 10. 

Bohm finished with 11 kills for Skyline, and Lee had 46 assists. Jordan Hall had 21 digs for the Eagles, and Murray added 14. 

The trip to the Finals was the first for Skyline in its fifth year as a program. It had qualified for the Semifinals in 2019. 

“I think this year it was our focus to get to Battle Creek and be in the Finals, and to give whatever team was on the other side a battle,” Skyline coach Chris Christian said. “I’m proud of these ladies, because they gave Marian a battle. It wasn’t like it was two years ago when we were here and we were just not ready mentally, not really equipped. This time, we were ready, and I think for them to be able to see that anything is possible from where this program started five years ago, we’ve come a long way. There still is room for growth for us.” 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Bloomfield Hills Marian raises the Division 1 championship trophy after finishing a repeat title run Saturday. (Middle) Marian’s Janiah Jones (5) sends a potential kill at the block of Skyline’s Kate Maley (11) and Cari Bohm (18). (Photos by 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.)