Preview: Hopefuls Converge on Kellogg

November 14, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

There are important changes to note as we move into the final weekend of the 2018 Michigan high school girls volleyball season.

First, remember that Classes A, B, C and D are no longer. This weekend will see the first champions of Divisions 1, 2, 3 and 4.

And while Pontiac Notre Dame Prep and Bronson are seeking to repeat, only two more of the 16 teams from last season’s field will be joining them back at Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena. From this mostly-new group of contenders, nine teams are seeking their first championship in this sport and six are hoping to make the final day’s matches for the first time.

Below is this weekend’s schedule:

Division 1 Semifinals – Friday
Lake Orion vs. Farmington Hills Mercy, 4:30 p.m.
Northville vs. Rockford, 6:30 p.m.

Division 2 Semifinals - Thursday
Grand Rapids Christian vs. Lake Odessa Lakewood, 4:30 p.m. 
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep vs. Corunna, 6:30 p.m.

Division 3 Semifinals – Thursday
Unionville-Sebewaing vs. Traverse City St. Francis, Noon
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central vs. Bronson, 2 p.m.

Division 4 Semifinals - Friday
Mendon vs. Southfield Christian, Noon
Leland vs. Carney-Nadeau, 2 p.m.

Finals – Saturday
Division 1, 2 p.m. 
Division 2, 4 p.m. 
Division 3, Noon
Division 4, 10 a.m.

Click for links to all results from this season’s tournament plus ticket information and details on live broadcasts of all 12 matches this weekend on and Below is a glance at all 16 contenders, with statistics through last week's Regional Finals unless noted. 

Division 1

 52-2, No. 1
Coach: Loretta Vogel, 10th season (record N/A)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central
Championship history: Class A runner-up 2010. 
Best wins: 3-0 (Regional Final) plus five regular-season sweeps of No. 6 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 2-0 and 2-0 over No. 2 Lake Orion, 2-0 over honorable mention Clarkston, 2-1 over honorable Temperance Bedford, 2-0 over No. 9 Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, 2-0 and 2-0 over Division 2 No. 1 Grand Rapids Christian.
Players to watch: Jess Mruzik, 6-1 jr. OH (377 kills, .416 hitting %); Julia Bishop, 5-11 soph. S (1,329 assists, .589 hitting %); Ella Loussia, 6-1 sr. OH (211 kills, .362 hitting %).
Finals forecast: Mercy, a semifinalist last season as well, hasn’t lost a match in two months and only seven sets this season. Only Lake Orion and Stoney Creek took match victories, and the Marlins avenged both defeats. Mruzik, a returning all-stater, will enter next season as the likely Miss Volleyball Award favorite. Sophomore Charlie Atiemo and senior Mallory Conrad are both 6-0, giving Mercy a stifling block in the middle – and Atiemo was third on the team with 205 kills entering the week and second with a .504 hitting percentage. Mruzik has committed to sign with University of Michigan.

 66-5, No. 2
Coach: Tony Scavarda, fifth season (276-48-2)
League finish: Second in Oakland Activities Association Red
Championship history: Class A runner-up 2011.
Best wins: 2-0 over No. 1 Farmington Hills Mercy, 3-0 (Regional Final) plus two regular-season wins over No. 9 Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, 3-0 (District Final) plus three regular-season wins over honorable mention Clarkston, 2-0 over No. 3 Mattawan, 2-0 over No. 6 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 2-0 over No. 8 Northville, 2-0 over No. 10 Portage Central, 2-0 and 2-0 over honorable mention Novi, 2-0 over Division 2 No. 1 Grand Rapids Christian, 2-0 over Division 2 No. 2 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.
Players to watch: Paige Briggs, 5-10 sr. OH (679 kills, .396 hitting %, 83 aces); Wren Macaulay, 5-9 sr. S (1,539 assists, 94 aces, 84 blocks, 319 digs); Sydney Smith, 5-10 jr. OPP (277 kills, .323 hitting %).
Finals forecast: Lake Orion has held onto the No. 2 spot in Division 1 as one of only two teams statewide to take a win from Mercy this fall. Briggs was a Miss Volleyball candidate and has the Dragons back at the Semifinals for the first time since the runner-up finish in 2011, and after missing nearly half of her junior season with an injury. Four players had at least 70 blocks entering this week, with 6-2 sophomore middle Kendall Robertson the leader with 99 and third on the team with 233 kills. Lake Orion’s losses were to Mercy (twice), Northville, Stoney Creek and Grand Rapids Christian. Briggs will continue her career at Western Kentucky.

 47-6-1, No. 8
Coach: Julie Fisette, third season (134-21-4)
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 2-1 over No. 2 Lake Orion, 2-1 over No. 10 Portage Central, 2-0 over No. 9 Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, 2-1 over No. 6 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 3-0 (District Final), 3-0 and 2-1 over honorable mention Novi, 3-1 (Regional Semifinal) and 2-1 over honorable mention Temperance Bedford, 2-0 over honorable mention Clarkston.
Players to watch: Clare McNamara, 5-10 jr. MB (353 kills, .309 hitting %, 85 blocks); Gabriella Fisette, 5-9 sr. S (817 assists, 190 digs); Hannah Grant, 5-7 sr. L (661 digs, 70 aces). (Stats include Quarterfinal.)
Finals forecast: The Mustangs will play in their third Semifinal in seven seasons but first under Julie Fisette, who took over three seasons ago but formerly coached for 17 at Novi. Northville ran into the eventual Class A champion Wildcats during the tournament the last three seasons, but prevailed in their meeting this time in the District Final. The team’s only defeats came to Lake Orion, Grand Haven, Clarkston, Bloomfield Hills Marian (twice) and Portage Central.
Grant made the all-state second team last season, and McNamara earned honorable mention.

 46-11-1, No. 7
Coach: Kelly Delacher, 14th season (571-243-13)
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Championship history: Class A champion 2011, runner-up 2016.
Best wins: 3-2 (Regional Semifinal), 3-0 and 2-0 over No. 5 Hudsonville, 3-2 (District Final) and 2-1 over No. 4 Lowell, 2-0 and 2-0 over No. 10 Portage Central, 2-1 over No. 3 Mattawan, 2-1 over Division 2 No. 1 Grand Rapids Christian.
Players to watch: Lindsay Taylor, 6-2 sr. OH (689 kills, 65 aces, 352 digs); Emmy Webb, 6-0 sr. MH (408 kills, .373 hitting %, 88 blocks); Emilee Karelse, 5-8 sr. S (1,412 assists, 77 aces, 250 digs).
Finals forecast: The Rams graduated two all-staters after last season but made it back to the Semifinals after ending 2017 in their Regional Final. Taylor made the all-state second team last season, while Webb made a brief appearance in the 2016 championship match. Rockford has won 15 of its last 16, avenging the lone loss of that string by beating Hudsonville in the Regional Semifinal. The team has only four seniors – the three mentioned above and 5-11 outside hitter Alyssa Judge, who was third entering the week with 236 kills and 315 digs and first with 95 aces. Taylor will play collegiately at Miami (Ohio).

Division 2

 50-6-5, honorable mention
Coach: Kari Carnell, eighth season (251-125-28)
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference Red
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-0 over honorable mention Kingsley in Quarterfinal, 3-1 over Mt. Morris in District opener, 2-1 over Division 3 No. 6 Unionville-Sebewaing, 2-0 over Division 3 honorable mention Pewamo-Westphalia, 2-0 over Division 3 honorable mention Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian.
Players to watch: Elizabeth Norris, 5-11 jr. MH/S (837 kills, 86 blocks, 388 digs); Alexa Mort, sr. S (1,533 assists, 72 aces, 341 digs); Ellie Toney, 5-11 fr. MH (301 kills, 92 aces, 417 digs).
Finals forecast: Coming off its third straight Regional title, Corunna has broken through to earn its first Semifinal berth. The Cavaliers have won 10 of their last 11 matches and also taken some strong defeats – the losses this fall came to No. 2 Notre Dame Prep, honorable mention Cadillac, Division 3 No. 3 Schoolcraft, Oxford and New Lothrop. Norris earned all-state honorable mention last season and in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal blew past her sister Meredith’s best kills season of 839 in 2016, when Meredith was named Miss Volleyball.

 44-5, No. 1
Coach: Tiffannie Gates, eighth season (378-79)
League finish: First in O-K Gold
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 6 Hamilton in Quarterfinal, 3-0 over honorable mention Spring Lake in Regional Final, 3-0 over No. 8 Coopersville in Regional Semifinal, 3-0 (District Final) plus three regular-season sweeps of honorable mention Grand Rapids South Christian, 2-1 over No. 7 Fruitport, 3-2 over Division 1 No. 5 Hudsonville, 2-0, 2-0 and 2-1 over Division 1 No. 10 Portage Central, 2-0 over Division 1 No. 2 Lake Orion, 2-0, 2-1 and 2-0 over Division 1 No. 7 Rockford.
Players to watch: Addie VanderWeide, 6-0 soph. OH (482 kills, .332 hitting %, 351 digs); Maria Bos, 5-9 sr. OH (391 kills, 313 digs); Jordyn Gates, 5-11 jr. S (1,260 assists, .321 hitting %, 368 digs). (Stats include Quarterfinal.)
Finals forecast: Grand Rapids Christian is seeking its first championship in this sport after making the Class A Quarterfinals three times this decade including last season, and reaching the Semifinals most recently in 2015. Gates made the Class A all-state second team last season and VanderWeide made the third team, and they lead a lineup with only two seniors – Bos and 5-11 middle Olivia Nedd (206 kills, .315 hitting percentage). The Eagles have seen most of the best in Divisions 1 and 2, falling this fall only to Mercy (twice), Rockford, Lake Orion and Division 1 No. 3 Mattawan.  

46-8-2, No. 3
Coach: Cameron Rowland, first season (46-8-2)
League finish: First in Greater Lansing Activities Conference
Championship history: Class B champion 2012, four runner-up finishes.  
Best wins: 3-1 over No. 5 Wixom St. Catherine in Quarterfinal, 3-0 over honorable mention Parma Western in Regional Semifinal, 2-0 over No. 7 Fruitport, 2-0 over No. 8 Coopersville, 2-1 over Division 1 No. 4 Lowell.
Players to watch: Patsy Morris, 5-5 sr. L (692 digs, 365 assists, 108 aces); Aubrey O’Gorman, 6-3 soph. MB (353 kills, .451 hitting %, 140 blocks); Maradith O’Gorman, 6-1 fr. RS/S (452 kills, .393 hitting %, 404 assists, 95 aces, 122 blocks, 300 digs).
Finals forecast: Longtime coach Kellie Rowland retired after leading the Vikings to a third runner-up finish in four seasons last fall. In stepped her son Cameron, who grew up in the program and previously served as a graduate assistant at Western Michigan University. He’s brought the Vikings back for their fifth Semifinal in seven seasons, and with a returning first-team all-stater in Morris and third-teamer in Aubrey O’Gorman. Five players had at least 100 kills entering the week, and sophomore Sophie Duits with 499 assists led three players with at least 365. St. Catherine was the first of six postseason opponents to win a set, and the Vikings are 15-0-1 over their last 16 matches.

 63-5, No. 2
Coach: Betty Wroubel, 25th season (1,057-221-94)
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Championship history: Three Class B titles (most recent 2017).
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 4 North Branch in Regional Final, 2-0 over honorable mention Corunna, 3-0 over Division 1 No. 6 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 2-0 over Division 1 honorable mention Battle Creek Lakeview, 2-0 over Division 3 No. 2 Bronson.
Players to watch: Maddy Chinn, 6-3 sr. OH (628 kills, .463 hitting %, 134 blocks, 493 digs); Natalie Risi, 5-11 sr. OH (532 kills, .449 hitting %, 178 aces, 444 digs, 147 assists); Aly Borellis, 5-5 fr. S/RS (74 aces, 700 assists). (Stats include Quarterfinal.)
Finals forecast: Notre Dame Prep won its second Class B title in five seasons a year ago, and this week saw Chinn named the Miss Volleyball Award winner – with Risi also among the 10 finalists. They and setter/outside hitter Maria Famularo (597 assists, 435 digs, 276 kills, 97 aces) are the only seniors on the team and three of only five upperclassmen. After taking tough losses early to strong Division 1 teams Clarkston, Marian, Lake Orion, Flushing and Sterling Heights Stevenson, the Fighting Irish have strung together 53 straight wins. Chinn will continue her career at Purdue University and Risi with Ball State, while Famularo will play at Division II Slippery Rock in Pennsylvania.

Division 3

 56-6, No. 2
Coach: Jean LaClair, 19th season (892-307-75)
League finish: First in Big 8 Conference
Championship history: Four Class C titles (most recent 2017), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 3-2 (Regional Final) and 2-0 over No. 3 Schoolcraft, 3-0 over No. 9 Centreville in Regional Semifinal, 3-0 (Quarterfinal) and 2-0 over honorable mention Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian, 2-0 over honorable mention Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, 2-1 over Division 1 honorable mention Battle Creek Lakeview, 3-0 over Division 4 No. 2 Mendon.
Players to watch: Keona Salesman, 6-1 jr. OH (707 kills, .394 hitting %, 114 aces, 525 digs); Kiera Lasky, 5-5 sr. L (662 digs, 92 aces); Ashton Wronikowski, 5-11 sr. MH (392 kills, 109 blocks, 135 aces).
Finals forecast: Bronson won the last three Class C championships and might be the favorite this weekend if not for an early loss to Monroe St. Mary. Lasky made the all-state first team last season and was a Miss Volleyball finalist, while Salesman and Wronikowski also made the Class C first team a year ago and now-senior hitter Jolie Smoker (331 kills) earned honorable mention. Sophomore Meagan Lasky has taken the reigns of the attack with a record book-qualifying 1,640 assists heading into this week. Bronson also has wins over Division 2 honorable mentions Parma Western, Niles and Edwardsburg and Division 4 No. 3 Camden-Frontier and No. 5 Battle Creek St. Philip, with their defeats to St. Mary, Division 1 No. 3 Mattawan, Battle Creek Lakeview (twice), Notre Dame Prep and Ann Arbor Skyline.

 45-3, No. 1
Coach: Karen O’Brien, fourth season (151-36-3)
League finish: First in Huron League
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), three runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 2-0 over No. 2 Bronson, 3-2 over No. 5 Manchester in Quarterfinal, 3-0 (Regional Final) and 2-0 over No. 10 Brighton Charyl Stockwell, 3-0 (District Final) and 2-0 over No. 4 Riverview Gabriel Richard, 2-0 over Division 2 No. 8 Coopersville, 2-0 and 2-1 over Division 1 honorable mention Temperance Bedford.
Players to watch: Mikayla Haut, 5-10 soph. OH (536 kills, .405 hitting %, 95 aces, 71 blocks, 364 digs); Abby Jackson, 5-7 sr. L (548 digs); Maddie Haut, 6-0 sr. MH (244 kills, .477 hitting %, 119 blocks).
Finals forecast: St. Mary is back at the Semifinals for the sixth time in eight years after falling in a Quarterfinal to eventual champion Bronson a year ago. The Kestrels have returning all-state first-teamers Mikayla Haut and Jackson and third-teamer Maddie Haut highlighting a roster with four seniors total but three who start. The third, setter Jessica Long, had a team-high 799 assists entering this week, and 5-8 sophomore Anna Dean (263 kills) is another key hitter. St. Mary also owns wins over Division 4 No. 5 Battle Creek St. Philip, No. 6 Plymouth Christian and Division 2 honorable mention Parma Western, with its losses to Brighton, Dexter and Mattawan.

 34-13, No. 8
Coach: Matt Witczak, first season (34-13)
League finish: First in Lake Michigan Conference
Championship history: Class C runner-up 2012.
Best wins: 3-1 over honorable mention Beal City in Quarterfinal, 3-1 over Rogers City in Regional Semifinal, 2-1 over Division 2 honorable mention Kingsley, 2-0 over Division 4 No. 1 Leland.
Players to watch: Molly Mirabelli, 6-1 sr. OH (408 kills, 129 digs); Brenna Poole, 5-10 sr. M (332 kills, 94 blocks, 136 digs); Hannah Sidorowicz, 5-8 soph. S (812 assists, 74 aces).
Finals forecast: St. Francis won its third Regional title in four seasons and will play in the Semifinals for the first time since 2015. The Gladiators have come on strong with 20 wins over their last 21 matches, including a late victory over Leland after two earlier defeats. Mirabelli made the all-state first team last season and played in the 2015 Semifinal loss to Bronson. Along with Brenna Poole, sophomore Kaylin Poole provides additional hitting with 284 kills and a team-high .350 hitting percentage entering this week. Mirabelli will play collegiately at Miami (Ohio).

 43-4-4, No. 6
Coach: Teresa Rose, 11th season (373-105-46)
League finish: First in Greater Thumb Conference West
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-2 (Quarterfinal) and 2-0 over Brown City, 2-1 over No. 9 Centreville, 3-0 over honorable mention Harbor Beach in the District Final, 2-0 over honorable mention Pewamo-Westphalia.
Players to watch: Rylee Zimmer, 5-10 sr. MH (782 kills, .384 hitting %, 517 digs, 127 blocks); Nichole Schember, 5-9 sr. S (1,616 assists); Allyson Kemp, 5-10 jr. OH (351 kills). (Stats include Quarterfinal.)
Finals forecast: After falling in a close Quarterfinal a year ago, USA took the next step to return to the Semifinals for the first time since 2014. Zimmer was a Class C all-state second-teamer last season, and she and Schember are the only seniors on this fall’s squad. Both have posted numbers eligible for inclusion in the MHSAA record book, and freshman Megan Gross (252 kills) and sophomore Grace Williamson (279) also are key hitters. The Patriots’ only losses were to larger schools – Grand Blanc (twice), Mason and Corunna. They’ve lost only 22 sets this season, including the eight from those four defeats. Zimmer will continue her career at Saginaw Valley State.

Division 4

 26-3-1, No. 9
Coach: Steve Kedsch, 17th season (279-196-38)
League finish: First in Skyline Central Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-2 over honorable mention Onaway in Quarterfinal, 3-1 (Regional Final) and 3-2 over Munising, 2-0 over No. 10 Rudyard.
Players to watch: Taylor Kedsch, 5-8 soph. OH (216 kills, 62 aces, 239 digs); Talisha McCullough, 5-4 sr. S (364 assists, 207 digs); Layla Blahnik-Thoune, 5-7 sr. S/RS (222 assists, 65 aces, 201 digs).
Finals forecast: Carney-Nadeau has followed up its first Regional title in this sport with its first trip to the Semifinals, after winning its third straight District and second straight league titles earlier this fall. The Wolves only losses were two early to Wisconsin teams and the most recent later to larger Sault Ste. Marie – they’ve lost only 15 sets all season. Senior Ashlyn Hansen and sophomore Liana Blahnik are 5-11 and 5-10, respectively, and provide an effective blocking tandem in the middle, together averaging nearly three blocks per match.

 46-10-1, No. 1
Coach: Laurie Glass, 24th season (956-279-90)
League finish: First in Northwest Conference
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), six runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-0 and 2-1 over Division 3 No. 8 Traverse City St. Francis, 2-0 over Division 2 honorable mention Cadillac, 3-2 over Division 2 honorable mention Kingsley.
Players to watch: Ella Siddall, 5-5 sr. S (1,019 assists, 80 aces, 229 digs); Allie Martin, 5-7 sr. OH (493 kills, 113 aces, 386 digs); Hanna Elwell, 5-9 sr. OPP (310 kills).
Finals forecast: Leland is back for its fourth Semifinals in five seasons after falling in the Regional a year ago. Siddall is capping a career that has seen her set for the 2015 championship team and 2016 semifinalist, while Martin also was a key contributor in 2015 and Elwell played a big part in 2016. Siddall made the all-state first team last season, while Martin made the second, junior middle/defensive specialist Maddie Grosvenor made the third and senior libero Margie Stowe earned honorable mention. Siddall will play collegiately at DePaul.

 47-6-3, No. 2
Coach: Heather Bowers, first season (47-6-3)
League finish: First in Southwest 10 Conference
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2001).
Best wins:

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.)