Seniors Cap Notre Dame Prep Careers with Championship Celebration

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 20, 2021

BATTLE CREEK – Josie Bloom and her Pontiac Notre Dame Prep senior classmates entered high school with the volleyball program on top. 

They will leave having put it in the same place. 

Led by a deep and talented senior class, the Irish defeated North Branch 25-17, 25-17, 25-12 on Saturday at Kellogg Arena to claim the MHSAA Division 2 Finals title. 

“It’s awesome,” Bloom said. “We’ve had this goal since the beginning of the season, and it’s awesome to have that final feeling, and to go out with a bang.” 

The title is the fourth for the Irish, and first since 2017, when the Class of 2022 was in the eighth grade. Notre Dame Prep has advanced to the Final Four in each of the past four seasons, and was a finalist in 2018. But the promise of this class was truly met Saturday as it capped off a remarkable 64-1 season by hoisting the Finals trophy. 

“It’s so hard to do,” said Notre Dame Prep coach Betty Wroubel, who has coached all four Finals champions. “I don’t think people realize how hard it is to get this far and win. Anything can happen along the way. You need a little bit of luck, you need a lot of skill and you need a team that's going to persevere through adversity no matter what – injuries, officials calls or other teams that get hot against you – it doesn’t really matter, you have to be able to overcome that. I think this team’s mental toughness was awesome.” 

The Irish, who are ranked fifth nationally and handed Division 1 champion Bloomfield Hills Marian its lone defeat, featured nine seniors. While standouts such as Bloom and Aly Borellis and Bianca Giglio deservedly get a lot of the credit, it was a late moment when reserve senior Leah Greif was inserted into the match and able to be on the court for the final points that garnered some of the loudest applause. She made it count with a perfect pass that led to a point. 

Notre Dame Prep/North Branch volleyball“It’s awesome, because they work their butts off all season, too, along with all the starters,” Bloom said. “I think they definitely deserve a chance, and it’s awesome to see them succeed in a game like this.” 

Bloom led the Notre Dame Prep defense with 20 digs, while Borellis led the attack with 17 kills and 13 assists. Giglio added 10 kills, while Margo Sudzina had 19 assists, and Elyssa Wallace had 17 digs. 

While the Irish were senior-led, North Branch (46-9) was led mostly by its sophomore class. 

The Broncos will graduate a single senior – Gracie Hyde – and the experience gained on the weekend is something coach Jim Fish believes will be of great value for the program as it also looks to get back to the top of Division 2. North Branch has won three titles itself, the latest coming in 2016. 

“You can put it on the calendar; we will be back next year – we will be here,” Fish said. “They got a taste of it, we had a great weekend, we had a great time in this match. When the third game started, I told them, ‘Ladies, I’m having the time of my life and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. So, let’s just enjoy this.’ Our 10 sophomores against their 10 seniors, that’s two years difference. We played OK; they’re just a very good team. I give them all the credit, they’ve earned it, and they’ve waited four years to get it.” 

Adrienne Greschaw had 19 assists for North Branch, with Natasha Bickel (seven) and Kaela Chingwa (six) leading the team in kills. Hailey Green had 18 digs for the Broncos, and Alana Deshetsky added 15.  

“I would love to play them at full strength – that's not an excuse,” Fish said. “My outside (Deshetsky) couldn’t jump, she has two bad knees. My defensive kid (Hyde) couldn’t move. The result might be the same, so I’m not taking anything away. We knew we were up against it, we knew they were skilled at every position and it was a tall task. We had a great night (in the Semifinal win against Lakewood), and that’s what we’re going to rest our head on. They want to be here next year. They’re already talking about it.” 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Pontiac Notre Dame Prep celebrates its Division 2 championship Saturday night at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) The Fighting Irish’s Bianca Giglio (9) sends a kill attempt at a North Branch block including Natasha Bickel (15). (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.)