Volleyball Joins GR Christian Title Lore

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

November 17, 2018

BATTLE CREEK – Maria Bos’ eyes locked onto the MHSAA Division 2 volleyball championship trophy Saturday like they had locked onto every ball set her way that afternoon.

Although rather than spike it to the ground like she successfully did 21 times in the championship match, she joined her Grand Rapids Christian teammates in embracing and lifting the wooden mitten that previously had eluded the program.

“It doesn’t honestly feel real,” the senior outside hitter said. “You’re very tense the entire time, but still relaxed at the same time. All that tension just kind of lets itself go all at once, and I’ve been dreaming about this for all four years of high school. For it to finally happen on the last match of my senior year, it gets me, and it’s just the best.”

The Eagles swept 2017 Class B champion Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 25-19, 25-18, 25-21 at Kellogg Arena to claim the first Finals championship in program history. It also was the first time the Eagles had ever played in a Final, and rather than shrink from the moment, they soared.

“We kind of in our minds projected that we would be here,” Eagles coach Tiffannie Gates said. “We knew Notre Dame Prep was an amazing team, so we just talked about before we came out, no fear, just play aggressive, play to win and don’t try to worry about the outcome. Just play hard.”

Grand Rapids Christian (46-5) entered the postseason ranked No. 1 in the division, but the level of dominance against a veteran Irish team that had won 54 straight matches stunned most observers.

“We talked about mentally preparing for the fact to go five, and that it could be 16-14 in the fifth, and to not get down if they started to get a point run,” Gates said. “We made sure we played a very tough schedule this year, and we’ve beaten some really good teams, so we felt confident that we could battle these guys.”

The Eagles took control of all three sets relatively early, and then stifled any Irish attempt at a big run to get back into it – even in the third set when Notre Dame Prep made most every point interesting.

“They’re a very good team, as I’ve said all along, and they played well today,” Notre Dame Prep coach Betty Wroubel said. “We had a few hiccups. Every time we started to make a little bit of a run, we had an unforced error that would give them the ball back. I’m so proud of our kids; we had an awesome season. They played well, and we’re here – a lot of teams wish they were here. I’m proud of our kids. It’s the end of an era for these three seniors (Natalie Risi, Maria Famularo and Maddy Chinn), and that’s the saddest part.”

Chinn, who was named Miss Volleyball earlier this week, and Risi, who also finished in the top 10 in voting for the award, managed to get theirs in the attack, with Chinn tallying 17 kills and Risi 14. But the Eagles did a good job of staying away from Chinn’s blocking by attacking from multiple angles.

“That’s been our thing all year, running a fast offense,” Gates said. “I noticed that Betty moved Maddy to the right side to stop our outside hitters, so we did a good job of passing well enough to where we could run them out of the middle and avoid her big block for most of the night.”

Addie VanderWeide had 17 kills for the Eagles, adding three blocks. Lauren Peal had 12 digs, and Jordyn Gates had 38 assists and 29 digs to help her mom get her first coaching title.

“It was awesome,” Tiffannie Gates said. “I feel like they’re all my children right now. I really can’t point one out, I’m so proud of every single one of them. But, yeah, it was fun to be a part of it with her for sure.”

Risi added 12 digs for Notre Dame Prep (64-6), while Famularo had 14 assists and 14 digs, and Aly Borellis had 12 assists and nine digs.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids Christian hoists its first volleyball championship trophy Saturday at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) The Eagles’ Maria Bos (2) and Olivia Nedd (3) put up a block as Notre Dame Prep’s Maddy Chinn follows through on a kill attempt.

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)