P-W Volleyball Adds to School's Championship Tradition with 1st Finals Win

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

November 19, 2022

BATTLE CREEK – The message in the Pewamo-Westphalia huddle Saturday following a dropped third set was to get back to having fun.

The Pirates had been at their best all season while playing loose, and in the Division 3 Final with Kalamazoo Christian pulling to within a set, they didn’t want to let the pressure get to them.

Then Kellogg Arena provided an assist.

“Our team has a tradition of the ‘Cupid Shuffle,’” senior outside hitter Dani Pohl said. “It’s always on our playlist, and we always drop anything to dance to it. So, before the song came on we were just like, ‘We need to play loose. We play our best when we have fun.’ Then that song came on and we were like, ‘OK. This is our song. This is our set. We’re going to win this thing in four. We’re going to play loose and have fun. I honestly think the dance break just loosened everybody up. We knew what we needed to do, and we just went out there and did it.”

Pewamo-Westphalia shuffled its way to a 25-17 win in the fourth set, closing out a 25-17, 25-23, 23-25, 25-17 victory and the program’s first Finals title.

“The feeling really hasn’t set in yet,” said Pirates junior Taylor Smith, who had the match-winning ace. “It doesn’t really feel like we just did that. I think it’s really important for all of us, because not only did we do it for ourselves, we did it for our entire community. Everybody has been looking forward to this. We did something big, and it’s going to last us forever.”

The Pirates’ Sierra Schneider (12) winds up to hit with Kalamazoo Christian’s Marisa Fetterley (15) putting up a block.Pewamo-Westphalia has had plenty of success as an athletic department. But this trip to the Finals was the volleyball program’s first since a runner-up finish in 1994. 

“The popularity of our sport right now, there’s been a lot of success over the eight years that I’ve been here, and the amount of kids we have coming out to play the sport right now is just humongous,” Pewamo-Westphalia coach Jon Thelen said. “Every time we are successful in something, more kids seem to show up out of nowhere. This is just a great way to keep the community growing and loving the sport. I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot more state titles ahead of this program.”

To get title No. 1, the Pirates had to hold off a scrappy Kalamazoo Christian team that didn’t blink when it went down two sets in its first Final since 1976.

The Comets battled through the third set, and built a 15-11 lead after a pair of kills from junior outside hitter Holland DeVries. 

Pewamo-Westphalia (46-2-2) erased the deficit and eventually held a 20-18 lead before a back-and-forth finish tightened up the match at two sets to one. On Friday, Kalamazoo Christian had found itself in a similar position, going down two sets before coming all the way back to defeat Calumet in the Semifinal.

P-W’s Dani Pohl makes contact on a kill attempt. “I think I said those exact words, ‘We were right here yesterday,’” Kalamazoo Christian coach Carlie Southland said. “‘If we can come back like we did yesterday, we can come back like that today.’”

Of course, that wasn’t to be, as Pewamo-Westphalia took control of the fourth set relatively early, and built a 20-11 lead before eventually closing it out with Smith’s ace.

“I’m just proud of this group,” Thelen said. “We really battled all season, and it’s one of those things that started last year. I just kind of had this feeling going through the summer of what we were going to be able to do this year. I knew we were going to be very good, but how good, we just proved it today against a very good team.”

Saige Martin led the Pewamo-Westphalia attack with 13 kills, while adding 12 digs and three blocks. Pohl added 10 kills and 15 digs, while Smith had 36 assists and 11 digs. Sierra Schneider led the front line defensively for the Pirates with five blocks.

DeVries led Kalamazoo Christian with 17 kills and 16 digs. Marissa Fetterley added 11 kills and four blocks, while Makenna Ekkens and Hope Krichke each had 12 digs. Lola Stecker had 38 assists for the Comets (38-6-3).

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Pewamo-Westphalia celebrates its Division 3 championship Saturday at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) The Pirates’ Sierra Schneider (12) winds up to hit with Kalamazoo Christian’s Marisa Fetterley (15) putting up a block. (Below) P-W’s Dani Pohl makes contact on a kill attempt. 

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.)