Monroe St Mary Rising to Repeat Mode

November 13, 2020

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

MONROE – Flip the Switch. 

Every year, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central head coach Karen O’Brien comes up with a catchphrase that she can use in conversations with her team for motivation. 

This year, O’Brien picked the phrase “Flip the Switch,” which signals that MHSAA Tournament time is the time the Kestrels need to turn their game up a notch if they want to repeat as Division 3 champions.  

“We know we have a goal we want to accomplish, and we are working hard to get there,” said SMCC senior Anna Dean. “There’s always another level that we can reach, every game.” 

To this point, the Kestrels have answered the call. On Thursday, SMCC beat Manchester in straight sets to improve to 36-2 on the season and advance to Tuesday’s Quarterfinal against Bronson. O’Brien, in her sixth year coaching the Kestrels, said her team is making steady progress, but they still have potential to get better.

“We know we have another level we can raise our game to,” she said. “We haven’t played at that level yet in the playoffs. We know we need to flip the switch, mentally and physically, if we want to be at the next level.” 

SMCC is a veteran team with seven seniors who have been playing together for years. Miss Volleyball finalist Mikayla Haut is joined by classmates Grace Lipford, Abbie Costlow, Jaydin Nowak, Kylie Barron, Anna Dean and Olivia Anderson. There are also five juniors and two sophomores on the postseason roster. 

Haut is the second member of her family to be a Miss Volleyball finalist. Cassie Haut, now an assistant coach with the program, was a finalist in 2014 before becoming an all-Mid-American Conference player at Eastern Michigan University.  

“I think Mikayla learned last year that she doesn’t have to carry us, she has to lead us,” O’Brien said.  

Haut showed off her talent in the Regional held at Adrian Madison this week, at times dominating Tuesday’s match against Hudson and playing steady against Manchester. 

“I think our biggest thing is just being consistent,” Haut said. “That’s what is going to get us to where we want to be.” 

The Kestrels have put together an impressive resume to take with them into Tuesday’s Quarterfinal. In late October, O’Brien found an opening at a quad in Marshall where the Kestrels went and beat Marshall, ranked No. 10 in Division 2 at the time, Lake Odessa Lakewood, ranked No. 1 in Division 2, and Harper Creek, to go 3-0 on the day. SMCC also won its 10th consecutive Huron League title earlier this season. Haut and Barron have gone 55-1 in league play over their four-year careers.  

SMCC’s only losses this fall were to Division 1 opponents Saline and Ann Arbor Skyline. Skyline, which beat Saline in this year’s District, will be playing in Tuesday’s Quarterfinals as well. 

Costlow said the team believes in the Flip the Switch mentality.  

“As we get to harder teams, we really need to flip that switch,” she said. “We have before. As we progress in the postseason, we need to get our game up. 

“It’s a mental thing. It’s energy. When we bring that energy, we all move together and play as a unit, it's really fun.” 

Costlow has worked on a jump float serve this year and is consistently one of the team’s best servers. 

“The coaches have really been working with me with my hand contact and staying strong with it and not moving my wrist around,” she said. “I like contacting the ball higher. It floats and is hard to pass when it gets up into the air like that.” 

Serving at a high level is important for the SMCC attack.  

“Our goal is to serve tough so that their setters have a tough time getting anybody the ball,” O’Brien said. 

When they are playing offense, the SMCC hitters seem to never stop coming at teams. 

“I will be shocked if they don’t (win Division 3 again),” said Whiteford coach Buffy Ruddy after watching the Bobcats fall to SMCC in the District Final. “They have a great team. They have very good ball control, make very few errors and just have a really good balanced attack. They keep coming at you.” 

O’Brien said the SMCC setters do a great job of distributing the ball. 

“We have six hitters that can attack the ball,” she said. “We have certain plays called, but the setters do a good job of spreading the ball around. It can come from our middle or the right side. I think it’s a great thing. The opponents have to focus on three attackers every time.” 

Costlow agreed. 

“That’s one of the reasons we do so well,” Costlow said. “We have so many hitters that can put the ball down. The other team never knows where the ball is going to be set or who’s going to hit. It really messes up the other team.” 

After seeing her team get past Manchester, Lipford said the Kestrels want more. 

“We didn’t play to our full potential,” she said. “We would have liked it to be more decisive of a win. We need to start quicker, finish and play our game. 

“From the very start we have to have that mentality.” 

O’Brien is in her sixth year as head coach at SMCC. In 2018 her squad lost to Bronson in the Semifinals. Last year the Kestrels swept through the regular season and tournament, winning the school’s sixth Finals championship, and first under O’Brien, in a five-set thriller over Schoolcraft. 

The win over Manchester was another start. 

“I think individually we made steps, but as a team we are not there yet,” O’Brien said. “But we’ll be there on Tuesday.”  

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) SMCC’s Mikayla Haut (8) hits against Hudson’s Callie Bauer in their Regional Semifinal. Both Haut and Bauer are Miss Volleyball Award finalists. (Middle) Abbie Costlow (4) swings against Hudson. Costlow is one of seven seniors on the SMCC squad. (Below) The “Flip The Switch” T-shirt. (Action photos by Deloris Clark-Osborne.)

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.)