Cardinals remain in 1st place in SVC race after beating Mancy
JOHANNESBURG – The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team had a nine-day break and could have let it impact its play Thursday.
Instead, the Cardinals bounced back after a slow start and topped Mancelona 3-2 in Ski Valley play. They won the second and third sets 25-12 and 25-16, while Mancelona took the first and fourth, 25-22 and 25-23.
J-L (6-10, 3-0 SVC) fought hard to edge the Ironmen 15-13 in the deciding set. At one point, it trailed 11-7.
"We had great serving at critical times," coach Kristine Peppin said. "We were down 11-7, kind of like we were against Forest Area. They did a good job of keeping their composure. They played it one point at a time. We got a big side out, and then Alyce (Vermilya) served three-straight points to put us up.
"We were trading with them, and we had excellent offense. They did a good job keeping the ball in play and keeping that composure."
Arielle Vermilya laid down 13 kills, followed by Amelia Lawrence with 12 and Tara Madej with seven. Lawrence served seven aces and added two blocks, Jessie Marlatt helped with 37 assists and Alyce Vermilya led with 24 digs.
"Our middles, Amelia and Tara, in particular, were hitting well and placing it well," Peppin said. "Both served well and did a nice job, too.
"Alyce was still nursing an injury, but she had a great game."
So far the Cardinals remain in a first-place tie with Bellaire for the race for the Ski Valley title. Thursday proved the Cardinals are able to pull out tough wins in meaningful games.
"We've been put in situations several times where we've had to fight for comebacks," Peppin said. "But we haven't played since last Tuesday, so it took time for us to get going. Once we warmed up, we played well.
"We were feeling those long days off, plus with us being back at school at the same time, it was challenging."
On Saturday, J-L was one of the smallest teams at a tournament in Grayling. It suffered 2-0 losses to Bellaire, Gaylord and Ogemaw Heights, while it fell 1-1 to Mio, as Mio picked up the win via tiebreaker criteria. The Cardinals beat the host Vikings and Lincoln Alcona each 1-1.
Cardinals improve to 2-0 in SVC after besting rival St. Mary on the road
GAYLORD – The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team is off to a hot start in the Ski Valley portion of its schedule.
Jessie Marlatt served six aces and recorded 17 assists, and the Cardinals blanked rival St. Mary 3-0 during a conference match Tuesday in Monsignor Kaminski Gymnasium. They picked up 25-13, 25-13 and 25-19 wins.
The Cardinals (4-5, 2-0 SVC) hope to earn their third-straight conference win when they visit Mancelona for a match Thursday, Sept. 13.
"We're just taking it one game at a time and focusing on the next opportunity in front us," J-L coach Kristine Peppin said. "We scrimmaged Mancelona this summer and fared well. But who's to say what will happen in that game? We're taking every game seriously – one game at a time.
"We're not counting anything before it happens. The ball is in our court to keep control over the next couple of games we have coming up."
Arielle Vermilya led at the net with six kills and four digs, followed by Alyce Vermilya with four kills and nine digs. Amelia Lawrence added one block and seven digs.
Tara Madej pitched in only four kills but played outstanding, Peppin said.
"Tara hit well. She didn't lead the team in kills, but she hit it hard and put them down," Peppin continued. "They (St. Mary) had trouble popping up a lot of her hits. She had a great game at the net, and she served well. I was pleased with her serving power and aggression."
The Cardinals maintained a 95.9 percent serving percentage and had only three errors at the service line. They had 17 aces in all.
"In the first two games, we definitely controlled the play and served like crazy and were putting down kills," Peppin said. "They (St. Mary) weren't able to set up much defense. We were sloppy in Game 3, but we still controlled a lot of the tempo and everything else.
"About 1/3 of our points came each from aces, kills and balls they couldn't return. Anytime you serve that percentage and get aces, that's a good match. Even it if wasn't an ace, we got a free ball to pop up to us or were able to set up our offense."
The Snowbirds (0-7, 0-1 SVC) received seven kills and 12 digs from Megan Loffer as well as six digs from Danielle Cruz.
"The St. Mary girls struggled with offense tonight," coach Christie Perdue said. "We could not get out of sets or get our hits on point. Our seniors and captains played well tonight."
In the JV matchup, St. Mary won 3-0, earning 25-16, 25-21 and 15-7 wins. Marilyn Harbin finished with eight kills for the Snowbirds, while Eliza Handley had seven assists and five digs.
High energy: Cardinals finally take down Forest Area in a SVC match
JOHANNESBURG – The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team graduated four starters from 2017. It knew it would be somewhat of a rebuilding season this fall.
So the Cardinals set modest but respectable goals. One goal was to beat Forest Area and Onaway – two Ski Valley teams that have had their number.
Unless you count weekend tournament games, J-L has only defeated Forest Area in 2012 and 2015 since coach Kristine Peppin took over 11 seasons ago. It added 2018 to that list during a conference match Monday.
Twins Alyce and Arielle Vermilya set the energy and – time after time – the Cardinals (3-5) pulled themselves out of deficits. They edged the Warriors 3-2 to open the Ski Valley season with an important victory.
J-L trailed 9-4 in the deciding set, but Arielle orchestrated a seven-point serving run to put the Cardinals ahead, 12-9. Then an Alyce kill and three unforced Forest Area errors gave the Cardinals the 15-12 win in upset fashion.
"Just basically put the ball over the net," Arielle said was her strategy at the service line. "Just basically I didn't think that much. I knew if I thought too much about it, I would hit it into the net. It was pretty hard. I just powered through and did what I had to do.
"It feels really awesome (to finally beat Forest Area)."
Added Alyce: "We just had to go all out with it. We're not a tipping team. We just want to go all out because that's how we're going to score points. We got a W because of that. It's awesome. I'm really pumped."
Arielle received plenty of help during her serving spree. Amelia Lawrence spiked a ball for a point, and then Alyce added a kill and a block of her own. Tara Madej sent a free ball over the net that Forest Area couldn't dig. The Warriors also volleyed a few balls out of bounds.
Arielle and Alyce led the team with 11 kills apiece. They served four and three aces, respectively. Arielle finished with a team-best 46 digs in the back row.
"They dominated," Peppin said. "They played stellar in the back row – both of them. They were just digging up everything, communicating.
"The tandem of them worked really well tonight, and I couldn't afford to take either one out of the game tonight."
The rest of the team played just as pivotal during the other four sets.
Forest Area stole the first and third sets, 28-26 and 26-24. Taking the Warriors to extra points gave the Cardinals confidence, however.
Alyce put together a brief serving run in the second set to give J-L an 18-12 advantage. Several unforced errors helped the Cardinals creep closer to 25 points, and then Delaney Hogle served an ace to clinch the match, 25-20.
Game 4 was a breeze for the Cardinals, who jumped out to a 17-11 lead. Alyce served an ace and came up with a kill, while Arielle had two straight aces to help J-L get close to match point. A tip from Amelia Lawrence (five aces, five kills, 20 digs) sealed the win at 25-16.
Jessie Marlatt set up the offense with 25 assists. Madej finished with nine kills.
"We were down a couple points in several games, and we fought back and tied it," Peppin said. "Whether we ended up winning that game or not, that was a huge morale booster, getting big serving runs.
"I think they (Forest Area) made us work for it. It was not an easy match by any sense. I think our serving is what kept us in the game."
The Cardinals are off for the Labor Day break. They'll visit rival St. Mary for another conference game Tuesday, Sept. 4.
J-L wants to continue taking down Ski Valley opponents, but it isn't looking too far into the future. It just needs to handle its business today.
"It's one game at a time, one practice at a time," Peppin said. "We had a really great practice yesterday. They were working hard, pushing each other, which is nice to see as a coach. It's not just me harping on them.
"They were challenging each other, challenging themselves. That makes it easier on me. They have really high energy on the court, and that pays off when they get on a run. They can go with it."
Improved Cardinals finish just short at own tournament
JOHANNESBURG – What a difference two days made for the Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team.
The Cardinals (2-5) played reserved in their opener Tuesday at Boyne City, but they rebounded to play much better during their home tournament Thursday.
Although they lost to Elk Rapids 2-0 in the tournament semifinal, they proved they could hang with anyone. Elk Rapids later beat Mio 2-1 in the championship.
"We didn't do too bad against Elk Rapids, and we stepped up our game a lot," J-L coach Kristine Peppin said. "As a group, we looked much more confident and were much more consistent.
"Tuesday night, we had lots of hitting errors, and we cut down on that. Five of our hitters had positive hitting percentages – more kills than errors. We worked hard on putting the ball in play, digging up everything and serving inbounds. We let the other side mess up and made sure to keep the scores close."
The Cardinals split with both Mio and Tawas Area – 1-1 matches each – in pool play. They wound up winners over Mio and losers to Tawas based on tiebreaker criteria.
They faced Engadine in a must-win pool play game to qualify for the tournament bracket. They showed moxie as they ripped off 25-19 and 25-16 wins. Arielle Vermilya, who finished with 13 kills and 35 digs, stepped up on defense during the match.
"Arielle had a big game against Engadine," Peppin said. "We had to win both to move on, so the whole team played intensely. They never played down or looked out of it during that one. They controlled the play, and it was a fun game to watch.
"They enjoyed it, and they played well. They showed themselves that they can (compete)."
Jessie Marlatt helped with 21 points serving, 10 aces, 46 assists and 19 digs, while Alyce Vermilya posted 12 kills, 21 digs and seven aces. Katie Kobylczak pitched in 23 digs, and Amelia Lawrence had 12. Lawrence also had 16 kills, followed by Tara Madej with seven and Amanda Korff with six.
"We focused on making scrappy plays," Peppin said. "We had girls diving on plays and girls hustling.
"Jessie made great back sets, some even almost to the bench that she hit right to hitters to get a shot at them. Very rarely was there a free ball. We just played consistently on offense."
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor
JOHANNESBURG – Let's take care of our Ski Valley games first and worry about the Class C district tournament when it gets here.
That's the approach the Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team is taking this season, which begins with a home tournament Thursday, Aug. 23.
The Cardinals are rebuilding after graduating all-region players Brittney McKenney and Alicia Korff from their 13-25-3 team last year. They return four players who saw significant court time, including setter Jessie Marlatt who set a school record by averaging 6.1 assists per game.
What the team lacks in "heavy hitters," it makes up for with scrappy play, 10th-year coach Kristine Peppin said Tuesday night. Its No. 1 goal is to take care of business in conference and knock off some teams that have had its number the past few years.
"We're just going to take each week as it comes," Peppin said. "We want to focus on our conference games and really improve on that. A couple of the girls said specifically they really want to beat Forest Area, which we haven't done in a LONG time. They want to challenge some of these conference teams."
Tara Madej and Amelia Lawrence return as J-L's middle hitters. Twins Alyce and Arielle Vermilya will play on the outside. Bri Matson and Amanda Korff will also help on offense.
"Tara's going to have a big role, and we expect a lot of things out of her in the middle," Peppin said. "She showed a lot of promise in the pre-season, hitting hard.
"Amelia has worked hard on her repertoire of hits. They're not just straight down the middle. She's working on beating players on back sets and slides, and she's trying to really have a variety of hits to give her the best chance to get a kill."
Defensively, Katie Kobylczak takes over for McKenney as the libero, while freshman Delaney Hogel did enough this summer to secure a spot in the back row for the Cardinals.
"Katie has been very talkative with leadership in the back row," Peppin said.
"Delaney Hogel is kind of an unexpected person we ended up bringing up. We had a spot where we needed a back-row player, and she came with us to a couple of scrimmages in June, and she showed promise. We went to a Pellston scrimmage, and she kept up in the back row. She did alright serving, so she'll be able to get her feet wet in the back row. She was setting in middle school, but with us, she'll fill a libero role, too."
J-L has placed an emphasis on serving to set up its offense. It has also worked on digging challenging balls.
"It's promising," Peppin added. "The girls – from the seniors down to the freshman – are hard workers. I think they're going to be one of the scrappiest teams around, and that hasn't been our tradition necessarily. We've kind of relied on heavy hitters and talkative players.
"These girls are willing to hit the floor and go for it. They have nothing to lose. They're going to be loud, aggressive and go for the ball. If they can keep that mentality that way – like, 'We can do this,' and, 'We can work hard.' – I think we'll be competitive."
While J-L is almost two years removed from a district championship, it knows it has a tough playoff waiting for it at the end of the regular season. It'll head to Charlevoix and play in a bracket with the host Rayders, East Jordan, Harbor Springs, Inland Lakes and Rogers City.
If the Cardinals can play how Peppin expects, which is scrappy, and show improvement in the Ski Valley, they could be competitive in the postseason.
"Who knows who we can hang with this year if we play scrappy?" Peppin said. "We're not going to be powerhouse hitters, but if we can dig and dig and dig and keep swinging, whoever has the fewest mistakes at the end of the day can come out with the win."
2017 Record: 13-25-3 (2-6 SVC)
2017 Finish: Lost to Lincoln Alcona 3-1 in Class C district final
Key Losses: Brittney McKenney, Alicia Korff, Deanna Miller
Key Returners: Jessie Marlatt, Tara Madej, Amelia Lawrence
No. - Name - Grade - Pos. - Height
0 - Katie Kobylczak - 12th - DS/L - 5-3
1 - Alyce Vermilya - 11th - OH - 5-6
2 - Jessie Marlatt - 11th - S - 5-1
3 - Arielle Vermilya - 11th - OH - 5-6
6 - Delaney Hogel - 9th - DS - 5-4
7 - Amanda Korff - 10th - RH - 5-5
8 - Bri Matson - 11th - OH - 5-5
9 - Amelia Lawrence - 12th - MH/RH - 5-6
12 - Tara Madej - 10th - MH - 5-11
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