Matchup of 1 vs 2 Goes to St Mary in 5

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 23, 2019

BATTLE CREEK – The Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central volleyball team didn’t mean to be prophetic when it made “I’ve got your six” its season motto. 

But on Saturday, the saying’s original intent – that each team member had the other’s back – gained a new meaning as the Kestrels brought home the school’s sixth MHSAA Volleyball Finals title with a five-set victory against Schoolcraft. 

St. Mary (50-2) won 25-27, 25-21, 19-25, 25-18, 15-12 at Kellogg Arena to claim the Division 3 championship, the program’s first since 2014. 

“Being here last year and going through a five-set loss (in the Semifinals) really fueled us,” St. Mary coach Karen O’Brien said. “I just think to have that experience of playing in that gym with the lights and the fans helped us. We wanted this from Day 1. We knew this was our goal to be here. It’s great for the four seniors to be able to come back and win our sixth. I know the reporter Jeff Mead (Friday) asked, ‘Does that six mean the sixth state title?’ It never was intended to be that way. But it might be a coincidence.” 

It’s the first title for the Kestrels under O’Brien, who previously coached at Eastern Michigan University. O’Brien underwent treatment earlier in the season for her third battle with ovarian cancer. 

“I don’t want to do anything but coach them when I’m going through treatment,” O’Brien said. “Because it’s something to look forward to, and I can leave cancer (to the side).” 

While going through treatment, O’Brien lost her hair and had a temporary tattoo on her forehead that symbolized the team’s other saying, “Allow your faith to be stronger than your fears.” She had one on her wrist Saturday, along with every member of the team. 

“Last year when we were here, the fears got the best of us,” O’Brien said. “The tattoo is just a reminder to have faith, not only in God, but in our players and the coaches and the program. And it was really just a reminder of that.” 

The Kestrels had to have faith Saturday, as the much-anticipated battle between the top two teams in the Division 3 rankings lived up to its billing. The teams proved to be very evenly matched, and any multi-point run seemed like a major victory. 

“I think we played a great game, and if we play them again, maybe we beat them in five,” Schoolcraft coach Erin Onken said. “I think that matchup goes more sets than three every single time. We have a ton of respect for them, and we knew it was going to be tough.” 

It was the No. 2 Kestrels who made the final run, winning the final three points. St. Mary senior Samantha Michael and junior Mikayla Haut combined for a block on Schoolcraft star Andelyn Simkins to close out the match. 

“Coach O’Brien always says if you see a hitter moving in, you’ve gotta move with her,” Michael said. “We just got our hands up, we pressed the six and we got her. It was just like the best feeling. It felt unreal.” 

Simkins led all players with 28 kills in her final match. She also had a team-high 23 digs for the Eagles (48-7-1). 

“It’s definitely not easy (defending Simkins),” Michael said.  

Schoolcraft raced to an 11-4 lead in the first set, but St. Mary came all the back and even led 20-19. A Simkins kill ended a back-and-forth finish to the set and gave Schoolcraft the initial match lead. 

The second set was following the same back-and-forth path, until SMCC was able to open up a four-point lead at 19-15, forcing a Schoolcraft timeout. While the Eagles were able to match SMCC the rest of the way, they couldn’t get closer than three points and the Kestrels tied the match at a set apiece. 

Simkins was a force in the third set, helping her team get a little bit of separation midway through. She had eight kills in the set, but that didn’t even cover the impact she made, as on multiple points she fired more than one spike at the SMCC defense to keep the Kestrels off balance. She closed out the set with a deft tip and put her team one set from a title. 

The Kestrels had different plans, however, racing out to a 9-4 lead in the fourth set to force a Schoolcraft timeout. The Eagles fought back to within one at 14-13, as Simkins had four kills in a five-point stretch. But SMCC was able to stretch the lead back out and force the fifth and deciding set. 

Haut led St. Mary with 27 kills and 24 digs, while junior Anna Dean added 12 kills. Senior Payton Osborne had 24 digs, junior Grace Lipford had 26 assists, and senior Sarah Reicker had 24 assists. 

Schoolcraft junior Kayla Onken had 53 assists and 15 digs, while junior Anna Schuppel had 13 kills. Juniors Kelby Goldschmeding and Allie Goldschmeding added 21 and 16 digs, respectively.  

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) St. Mary’s Abby Costlow (4) winds up for a kill attempt during Saturday’s Division 3 Final. (Middle) Schoolcraft’s Maggie Morris (9) blocks a St. Mary attempt.

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.)