St. Mary Sends Tuller Out as Champ

November 22, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

BATTLE CREEK – Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central wasn’t always the best team in Class C this season.

Longtime coach Diane Tuller wasn’t sure at the start of this fall if these Kestrels had “what it took” to win the school’s fifth MHSAA championship and second in three seasons.

But she never told them that. Every time St. Mary stepped on the court this season, Tuller always told her players they were the best – and in the end, it proved true again.

The Kestrels dropped the first set of Saturday’s Class C Final to second-ranked Schoolcraft, 25-23, but won the next three 29-27, 25-20, 25-22, to defend their top ranking and send Tuller into retirement with one more title.

“There’s no words to describe how much it means for us to leave her with something – her last state championship, for us to be the last team she gets to coach – you’ll never find another coach like her,” St. Mary senior Cassandra Haut said, “and I know we’re all honored to be able to play for her.

“She tells us all the time we’re the best team in the state, and I think even if it wasn’t (true) she knows in our heads coming from her that means more than anything and gets us ready to play every time we step on the court.”

The Kestrels finished this fall 45-8-2, Class C champions for the third time in five seasons after making the Quarterfinals in Class B a year ago.

Tuller will retire from coaching having led St. Mary to all five of its MHSAA titles and 595 wins over 17 seasons (with 188 losses and 51 ties).

She had a great starting point for her final season in a strong senior class including Haut, a 6-foot-2 middle who was a finalist for the Miss Volleyball award and will play collegiately at Eastern Michigan University.

“They’re a great team and improved every single time they stepped on the court. That’s all I ever ask of anybody,” Tuller said. “It’s not so much the state championship that means a lot to me now, but the fact that at the beginning of the season I wasn’t sure this team had what it took to get there. They’ve been improving, working hard, doing everything I asked them. I get a little screamy sometimes, but they put up with me, worked really hard. They did it.”

St. Mary gave up only two sets in eight tournament victories – the first to Ottawa Lake Whiteford in the District opener, and the last to Schoolcraft, which led by as many as five points during the first set and also in the second and as late as 23-22 before the Kestrels came back to finish on a 7-4 run.

Haut and her teammates expected the Schoolcraft surge – the Eagles had dropped their first two Semifinal sets to Roscommon before coming back.

St. Mary never trailed in winning the third set, and came back from six down in the fourth to finish its run.

“The momentum just kept changing. We played chaotically a little bit in Game 2, and there were moments of it in Game 3,” Schoolcraft coach Erin Onken said. “But I was proud of how we did fight back, even though we had those moments.”

Haut finished with 23 kills – tied for 13th most in an MHSAA Final during the rally scoring era beginning in 2004-05 – and senior Sydney McGinn’s 48 assists tied for sixth-most in Finals history.

Senior Marianne Douglas capped her all-state career with 17 kills and 14 digs, and senior setter Sarah Wisser had 44 assists as Schoolcraft made its second championship game appearance and first since winning Class C in 2008.

The Eagles finished 46-11-1, and Onken said she expected her team to make this run. “I said if you’re going to go down, write a story, make it awesome, show people how good you are,” she added. “I think we can walk away happy; I think our fans can walk away happy.”

St. Mary’s finish seemed a little destined as well, even if that’s not quite how Tuller would describe her final team’s effort.

“I don’t know if ‘destined’ is the right word. But they were determined and disciplined in what they had to do this year,” she said. “It’s all on them.”

Click for full statistics.

PHOTOS: (Top) Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central coach Diane Tuller holds up the MHSAA championship trophy to her team. (Middle) St. Mary setter Sydney McGinn moves the ball to a teammate while Schoolcraft prepares to block. (Click for action photos and team photos from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.) 


SCHOOLCRAFT PREVAILS IN FIRST SET - Schoolcraft made some nice defensive plays pay off for set point in the first against Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central.
BLOCKING FOR A TITLE - On match point, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central blocks the Schoolcraft attack.
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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.)