St Philip Adds to Record Title Total

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

January 16, 2021

BATTLE CREEK – For most programs, a five-year gap between MHSAA Finals appearances is a sign of incredible strength. 

For Battle Creek St. Philip volleyball, it must have felt like an eternity. 

The state’s winningest program made its way back to the top Saturday, defeating Auburn Hills Oakland Christian 25-8, 25-15, 22-25, 22-25, 17-15 in the Division 4 Final at Kellogg Arena. It’s the 21st title for the Tigers, and first since 2014. 

“I think it’s about time we got another one for Coach (Vicky) Groat,” St. Philip senior Harleen Deol said. “It’s been a dream since fifth grade, so it’s a dream come true my senior year.” 

St. Philip dominated the sport after the turn of the century, making 15 straight Finals appearances and winning 10 titles – including a record nine straight – from 2002-15.  

“I think in the past – I don’t think our team would take it for granted – I think our supporters took it for granted,” said Groat, who has now won 11 titles as St. Philip coach. “I’ve had many people say, ‘Oh, you’re always going to win state. St. Phil, we’re tired of St. Phil, they recruit.’ We don’t recruit, our numbers are going down – we have 10 total players in our program. … We preach about it at the start of every year, our goal is to win a state title. That’s what you want to strive for, and these kids believed in it.” 

It took everything the Tigers had to get No. 21, as Oakland Christian pushed them deep into the fifth set. The back-and-forth final frame ended with a Lancer attack going long, followed by St. Philp jubilation. 

“It was mentally and physically draining,” said St. Philip junior Brooke Dzwik, who had 37 kills in the match. “But at the end of the day, when you work your tail off and leave it all on the court, it makes the reward so much greater. We were able to do it for our senior, Harleen, and we reminded the youngers of that multiple times in the huddles. Everybody just was working, and that helped.” 

Groat looked to the sky before being embraced by her assistant coaches.  

“It feels like the first time,” Groat said. “I’ll never forget (2005), that was my first title as coach, but this is extra special, with the break (because of COVID-19).

Volleyball teams, and all fall sports teams, paused activity for nearly two months because of rising COVID-19 metrics. Teams returned to practice two weeks ago and restarted the tournament with Quarterfinals on Tuesday.  

Early on Saturday, it didn’t appear as if St. Philip would have much trouble collecting title No. 21. The Tigers rolled through the first set, winning 15 of the final 16 points. While the second was tighter, it was never in doubt, as Oakland Christian didn’t have any answers for the Tigers’ attack. 

Midway through that set, after a back-row attack found a hole in the back of the Lancers’ defense, Dzwik had her 13th kill of the match. Oakland Christian, meanwhile, had scored 14 points as a team. 

“She did all right,” Groat said with a laugh. “Brooke has been our main hitter this year, and today we kind of relied on her a lot. Besides Brooke, Harleen in the middle played a great game … to complement Brooke. But Brooke is an outstanding volleyball player. She sees the court so well, she wants it so bad, she pushes her teammates. I preach we’re a team, it’s not about individuals. We have 10 girls out there who bust their behind and help Brooke out.” 

Oakland Christian flipped a switch in the third set, however, winning a back-and-forth affair to extend the match. They kept that momentum going in the fourth, turning what had looked like a St. Philip walkover into a toss-up. 

“I didn’t want them to go down like this,” Oakland Christian coach Brian Theut said. “We’ve been through a lot of stuff this year, and this wasn’t how we were going to end it. Today, what was that final chapter going to be in the book that we wrote this year. I knew our seniors deserved a better way out, so I just kept telling them to hang in there. That third game, I knew if we could just get one, get a couple points in a row, I knew we had it. I just wanted to give us a chance, and that fifth set, it was anyone’s game. I wanted us to compete and show that we could.” 

Oakland Christian was led by senior libero Olivia Colletti, who had 36 digs. Katie Hopkins had 27 assists, guiding a balanced Lancers attack, led by Anna Frazee’s 10 kills. Kylie Morga added nine kills, while Kaylee Page had eight.  

“I am extremely proud of my team,” Page said. “This has been our dream, our goal, and we got to where we wanted. We may not have gotten the outcome we desired, but we laid it all out on the floor, every single girl – our whole bench, all our fans, our parents. We are so incredibly blessed to be where we are now, and that’s all I could ask for. Of course I want to win, but I’m proud of how we played.” 

Dzwik added 32 digs to her match-high kill total. Rachel Myers had 51 assists, while Bailey Fancher had 29 digs, Kate Doyle had 20, and Deol had 16 kills. 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Battle Creek St. Philip’s Rachel Myers controls possession for the Tigers during the Division 4 Final. (Middle) Abigail Franey serves for Oakland Christian. (Click for more from 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.)