St. Philip Adds to 'Tradition'

November 17, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – The Battle Creek St. Philip volleyball team rushed the Kellogg Arena floor Saturday just as it has many of the other 17 times the Tigers have won the MHSAA Class D championship.

There’s no reason to do differently. As the saying goes, winning doesn't graduate. And it surely doesn't get old. 

Beal City made it a little tougher than some others over the years. But like in all 72 of its wins this fall, St. Philip swept the Aggies to launch the latest celebration.

The Tigers finished this season with a 25-21, 25-15, and 25-18 victory to add another to their record championship total and pull it within one more of tying the longest volleyball title winning streak in MHSAA history.

“It’s seriously the same every time. We have the same excitement every time. It’s always special. We never get tired of it,” Tigers senior setter Lenae Lesiow said. “It’s obviously the best feeling in the world.

“It’s just tradition. We really know we have so many people supporting us. And we just want to make people proud, make ourselves proud, make our coach proud.”

Every team is different, and every coach is hesitant to compare them. But this Tigers team finished 73-2-1, setting a school record for wins and ranking as the 10th-most successful volleyball team in MHSAA history.

Beal City coach Kelly David, who has been immersed in Class D volleyball as both a player and now in her first season running the program, said this was, in her opinion, the best St. Philip team to come through.

And that made how her Aggies (45-11-1) hung close even more impressive.

Beal City was playing in its first MHSAA Final in any girls sport. Only three years ago, David was the setter as the Aggies made the Semifinals but lost to the Tigers in four games.

This time, Beal City played nearly point for point through the first and halfway into the second.

But eventually, St. Philip’s all-state hitting duo of senior Amanda McKinzie and junior Sierra Hubbard-Neil became the Aggies’ undoing.

McKinzie, named Miss Volleyball on Monday, finished with 19 kills, one short of making the MHSAA Finals record book. Hubbard-Neil, a sure contender for the statewide award next season, had 18 kills

She caught fire in the second game, while McKinzie unloaded powerful finishing shots in the third.

“They were close that whole first game, and I think we were a little bit nervous knowing, ‘Wow, they are so close,’” McKinzie said.

“We just had to relax and play our game,” Hubbard-Neil added. “When either of us as a hitter starts getting going, our setter will nail us. She just starts feeding us when we’re hot.”

Lesiow totaled 32 assists. McKinzie and senior Natalie Gallagher both had nine digs.

Beal City was led by junior middle Addie Schumacher, who had seven kills and five digs. Junior Melanie Schafer had six kills and nine digs, and senior Jade Kennedy had eight digs and 23 assists.

Kennedy and senior Monica David – the coach’s sister – were freshman call-ups for the 2009 Semifinal.

“Being freshmen, we were just part of the team and we got to cheer on our teammates,” Monica David said. “It was awesome coming back as a senior and being one of the leaders out there and being a big part of the team.”

And it couldn’t have hurt to be part of her sister’s first team as a coach.

 “I lucked out having a good group of girls to start with," Kelly David said. “It’s hard to believe we’re in the Finals my first year, and it’s a lot of fun. But it’s the girls, not me. It’s the girls that got here, and I’m just excited for them.”

Groat’s program has plenty of family ties as well. With eight MHSAA championships, she’s now just one short of tying the total of her mother Sheila Guerra, her predecessor who died in 2006.

Groat found a card earlier this week that she’d gotten from her mom the year before her death. On the back was written the number “8,” and she had no idea why but thought about that over the last few days. “Maybe she knew something back then that she’s trying to tell me,” Groat said.

Another title win next season would tie Marysville’s record streak from 1997-2004. But the Tigers will have to do it with a number of new contributors.

They’ll graduate seven from this team, including four-year players McKinzie and middle Casey Gallagher and three-year players Sam Ellis and Natalie Gallagher.

“They’re like family to me. I watched them grow from little awkward freshmen to fine young ladies as seniors, and in June when they graduate it’s going to be a sad day because we’ve spent a lot of time together,” Groat said. “They’re part of my life forever.” 

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Battle Creek St. Philip celebrates briefly after a point on the way to celebrating another Class D championship. (Middle) Jaclyn Behnke (11) and Amanda McKinzie block a kill attempt by Beal City's Addie Schumacher.

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.)