Burke moves up from JV, Cardinals get more offensive firepower
JOHANNESBURG – Jamie Burke is providing the Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team with much more than consistent serving.
The Cardinals (12-21, 5-3 SVC) moved up the sophomore from the JV about two weeks ago because of her serving. But she's already given the offense a much bigger shot in the arm.
In her team's 3-2 win over Bellaire on Tuesday, she scored three points on tips alone in the deciding fifth set. Whether it's getting blocks or kills as a middle hitter or taking pressure off J-L's other hitters, Burke has been a home-run call-up so far.
"She's doing a great job," coach Kristine Peppin said. "I think everybody has welcomed her, and she's really stepped up her game from JV in a big way and has been contributing immediately."
Burke's addition has freed up the likes of Tara Madej and Amelia Lawrence along the middle, while Alyce Vermilya has benefited on the outside, too. Lawrence has also been able to play more at other positions because of Burke's ability to play her position strongly.
"It's really nice against tall blockers," Lawrence said. "I moved to the right side, and Jamie got moved to the middle. It takes off some pressure because I like the right side because you have more room to hit, so I enjoy having Jamie up from the JV.
"Jamie is good at what she does. She's good at hitting, and she has really long arms, so she uses that to her advantage. I'm really happy she is in the middle, and we definitely have good chemistry already."
Burke said the transition to varsity was awkward at first, but she says things have been going smoother now that her teammates know how she moves and reacts on the floor.
"It's actually been really fun because they help me and teach me stuff I need to know on the varsity level," she said. "There were a few adjustments on defense (I learned early on) because they switch it up a little bit, but that's something I've gotten used to, too."
Burke finished with nine kills and four aces in her latest appearance.
"She served really well," Peppin said. "And she gives us more options in the front between flipping her and Amelia back and forth depending on where the other teams' strong hitter is. Jamie's taller, so she brings the blocking game to us."
Burke says she wants to improve on blocking. That shouldn't be a problem, though. She's just an inch or 2 shy of 6-foot and can jump well above the net.
"Sometimes I have an advantage," she joked.
Lawrence bounces back to push Cardinals past Bellaire
JOHANNESBURG — With the Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team clinging to a four-point lead in the deciding set, Amelia Lawrence wound up screwing up on back-to-back plays Tuesday against visiting Bellaire.
First, the senior sent a ball into the net, and then she sent another ball out of bounds. The Cardinals led only 11-9 in the final game.
"Our coaches always tell us, 'It's one and done. It's one and done,'" Lawrence said she was thinking after the two errors. "We have to take it one point at a time, so each point closes the game. So what (assistant coach Mark Peppin) has always told us is, 'It's one and done, and one and done.' When we get into our group huddle, we always say 'one and done.'"
Lawrence quickly shook off the mistakes. Arielle Vermilya came up with a key kill to turn momentum in J-L's favor, and then Lawrence used a spike to extend her team's lead to 13-9. After Alyce Vermilya came up with a spike of her own, it was — who else? – Lawrence who came up with the winning point, with a monster slam onto Bellaire's side of the floor.
The Cardinals pulled out the 3-2 win in Ski Valley action, winning the tiebreaker 15-19 in thrilling fashion.
"I talked to her right before that, and I said the ball is coming to you," said coach Kristine Peppin of Lawrence. "She had the look on her face like, 'OK, give it to me. I can do it.'
"She's not afraid of it, and it's something I've worked hard to preach to them is when the ball is coming to you, go after it. You're not afraid in that situation to go for the win. Safe plays aren't going to give you the win. You have to go after it in the attack."
Lawrence said her two errors in the middle of the set didn't even faze her.
"One and done," she said. "One and done."
J-L won Game 1 25-22 after Tara Madej (nine kills, five blocks) came up with two huge blocks down the stretch to ensure the win. Game 2 saw Lawrence (11 kills, 21 digs) come up with three timely kills as well as Arielle Vermilya (seven kills, 25 digs) and Jamie Burke (nine kills, four aces) with one kill apiece to take the 25-21 victory.
The wheels fell in the third and fourth sets, respectively, as Bellaire stormed back to pick up 25-18 and 25-18 wins to fourth the deciding set.
"I thought we started out strong the first couple of games," Peppin said. "Game 3 and 4, we just had too many errors — serving out, hitting out. They came back together in Game 5 and really had a high percentage (hitting) and everything came together and made a difference."
Jessie Marlatt, who was celebrating her 16th birthday, added 38 assists and 14 digs, and Alyce Vermilya finished with nine kills.
"We only beat Bellaire once this past summer, and that was a scrimmage, and they didn't have all their starters," Lawrence said. "So today was a really big win for us. We came in thinking it'd be a blowout, but we came out and worked hard for the win."
The Cardinals (12-21, 5-3 SVC) were coming off a 1-3 effort in Saturday's tournament at Inland Lakes. They defeated Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 27-25 and 25-18, but they suffered 2-0 losses to Rudyard, Houghton Lake and Carney-Nadeau. They return to the court Tuesday, Oct. 23, when they host a triangular with Inland Lakes and Lincoln Alcona.
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor
The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team moved up Jamie Burke from the JV over the weekend, and the sophomore made an immediate impact Tuesday against Harbor Springs.
Burke finished with six kills and three aces, and the Cardinals (10-17, 4-2 SVC) swept the visiting Rams, 25-18, 26-24 and 25-11.
"Jamie Burke was a solid addition as a middle hitter," coach Kristine Peppin said. "She had some great plays at the net and solid serving."
Amelia Lawrence added eight kills, Alyce Vermilya had seven kills and four aces, Arielle Vermilya pitched in 17 digs and Jessie Marlatt finished with 19 assists.
A six-point serving run from Tara Madej secured the win in Game 3, while Alyce Vermilya added four kills. Lawrence had five kills in the opening game, and Marlatt's serving was key to the win in Game 2.
"Each set, a different player really stepped up their game and had a chance to shine," Peppin said. "Harbor Springs was no match for our hard hitters and servers."
On Saturday, the Cardinals went 1-2 overall at a tournament at Whittemore-Prescott. They beat Fairview, 25-7 and 25-17. They split with Standish-Sterling and Oscoda but lost both matches via tiebreaker criteria. They ultimately missed advancing to bracket play, despite a three-way tie for first place in their pool.
"I was really pleased with our split with Standish," Peppin said. "After losing the first set 25-11, I switched around the lineup quite a bit, and we easily won the second set, 25-18. Standish had two 6-foot middle hitters who were very powerful, and we had trouble defending against them. We had to do something to adjust to that.
"Sophomore Jamie Burke stepped in at the middle, and she did a heck of a job challenging one of their big girls. She also was excellent from the serving stripe. That shifted Amelia Lawrence to the right side, where she was deadly at the net."
Marlatt led with 11 aces and 36 assists. Alyce Vermilya added 12 kills, Lawrence pitched in 11 and Arielle and Madej had eight apiece.
J-L's hot start simmers quickly in loss to No. 10 Onaway
JOHANNESBURG – On Tuesday, the Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team came out hot against No. 10 Onaway.
It just couldn't sustain that momentum throughout the entire match, ultimately losing to visiting Onaway 3-0 in a Ski Valley game. The loss dropped J-L to 8-15 overall and 4-2 in the conference, likely ending its chances at competing for a SVC title.
For all the highs and excitement during the game, J-L wound up ending the night with a closed-door meeting in its locker room. It wants to get better immediately, starting with the tournament it's playing in Saturday, Oct. 6, at Whittemore-Prescott, before the Class D district tournament starts.
"What we talked about just now was focusing on what area of our game each individual can make better," coach Kristin Peppin said. "They can come into practice knowing what areas of their game they want to make better and how that will help our team come together.
"There isn't a deep bench (with only nine players on its roster), so if we have a weakness, the other team is going to find it. So we want to work on strengthening the area of our game that we're not good at, and each girl said they knew what each one had to do. They knew what they had to do better after the game. If they can produce on that, we'll improve."
Alyce Vermilya (six kills, 16 digs) went on a brief serving run to give J-L a 12-8 advantage in the opening set. There were six ties throughout the middle of the set, including Amelia Lawrence (six kills) coming up with a kill to make it 19-19. However, unforced errors allowed Onaway to pull out the 25-20 victory.
"Just small errors that added up we couldn't recover from," Peppin said.
Onaway's Calley Selke used a five-point run to give Onaway a quick 11-3 lead in Game 2. Onaway went on to take that win, 25-15.
In the final set, Tara Madej gave J-L a spark with a pivotal kill and a tip, and then Vermilya's tip made it an 11-3 game. Onaway's Kennedy Crawford closed the gap with a serving run, and then more unforced errors hurt J-L down the stretch. Onaway broke open an 18-18 tie, and then Malaurie McLean's kill sealed the victory, 25-22.
"We tried our best," said Madej, who finished with four kills, four digs and one ace. "They're a good team, we're a good team. We tried the best we could. In the end, it didn't work out. It's kind of frustrating. But, overall, we just need to pick our heads up. We'll pick it up."
Jessie Marlatt (17 assists, 12 digs) played well for J-L, providing solid sets when she could get clean passes. But most of her team's struggles involved not providing her with easy-to-set balls to the hitters.
"It's pretty tough because it's hard for me to give them what they want in a set and work with what they want," Marlatt said.
Added Peppin: "Our passing was rough in the middle of the game. We just couldn't get the ball to Jessie. When our passes were good and we got the ball to her, we were getting good hits on the ball. When we couldn't get the ball to Jessie, we couldn't produce much offense."
Arielle Vermilya added four kills and 17 digs, Katie Kobylczak finished with six digs and Amanda Korff had three digs.
"It's pretty tough," Marlatt said of the loss. "We just can't get down on ourselves. That's what happens. We always start good, but at the end sometimes – after a couple of mistakes – we just bring ourselves down. We just can't do that."
Volleyball Roundup: Cardinals still competing for SVC championship
The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team stayed calm, and in doing so, the Cardinals (8-14, 4-1 SVC) remain in the hunt for a Ski Valley title.
They topped host Central Lake 3-0 in conference action Tuesday, finishing with 25-16, 25-15 and 25-19 wins.
"The girls kept high energy throughout the games and were very successful at serving and hitting especially," coach Kristine Peppin said. "They were very relaxed and played well as a team."
Jessie Marlatt (five aces, 25 assists and 14 serving points) paved the way for J-L, followed by Tara Madej (nine kills), Arielle Vermilya (eight kills), Amelia Lawrence (six kills) and Alyce Vermilya (five aces, nine digs).
The Cardinals host Onaway for a SVC match Tuesday, Oct. 2.
"We kept the ball in play much of the game, made very few errors and the rest took care of itself," Peppin said. "Central Lake had a lot of difficulty with both receiving our serves (20 aces as a team) and defending our hits (30 kills as a team).
"Our game plan was to keep control throughout the games and keep our errors down, which they did a great job of. We controlled the tempo the whole night. Hopefully, we can keep the ball rolling next week vs. Onaway."
Cardinals place 5th at St. Ignace tournament
The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team was one win from qualifying for bracket play at Saturday's tournament in St. Ignace.
The Cardinals (7-14, 3-1 SVC) lost 2-0 to both the host Saints and Sault Ste. Marie, two of the better teams playing, and fell to Pickford 1-1 via tiebreaker criteria. They did, however, defeat Engadine, 25-13 and 25-23. They settled for fifth place.
"Our battle was that we were up against some pretty tall blockers, especially with the Sault and St. Ignace," coach Kristine Peppin said. "So we struggled more on offense. We were a much shorter team than everyone and had to work hard to keep hitting after getting blocked and also not hit (the ball) out because we had to clear the ball over the blocker.
"So we worked to play a faster offense to keep our opponents off guard as much as possible and try to beat those tall blockers with our speed as well as place shots to try and beat their defense."
Amelia Lawrence led with 18 kills, while Arielle Vermilya had 17 kills and 34 digs and Alyce Vermilya had 10 kills and 30 digs. Tara Madej added five aces and 12 kills, and Jessie Marlatt helped with 56 assists.
"We had a lot of long rallies with teams," Peppin said. "Not everything worked out in the end, but it wasn't because of our passing. We worked hard on serve-receive in practice leading up to this tournament after playing Inland Lakes on Wednesday, and it was so much better today.
"We didn't allow so many long serving runs against us. Most games, we were trading points or got good opportunities to set up our offense."
J-L visits Central Lake for a Ski Valley game Tuesday, Sept. 25.
"Overall, I thought we stacked up well against the competition," Peppin continued. "We were pleased with fifth place out of nine teams. Our small team of eight players and only one girl over 5-7 (Madej) held our own.
"We beat or were equal to the schools our size that we played and kept up reasonably well with the big schools we faced."
Slow starts hurt Cardinals during SVC game at Inland Lakes
The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team's quest to win the Ski Valley title just got tougher.
The Cardinals (6-11, 3-1 SVC) dropped their first conference game of the season Wednesday, losing 3-1 to host Inland Lakes. They'll have an uphill battle to remain in contention for the championship. They visit Central Lake for another league game Tuesday, Sept. 25.
J-L won the first set 25-22, but Inland Lakes stormed back to win the ensuing three games, 25-23, 26-24 and 25-19. Slow starts in the second and third sets marred the Cardinals' chances to force a fifth game.
"This loss was a definite wake-up call because the girls knew they had an off-game as a group, and it cost them big," coach Kristine Peppin said. "It was a good opportunity for them to reflect on how we can pull together and get back on track for our next Ski Valley game."
Tara Madej and Amelia Lawrence notched 11 and 10 kills, respectively, while Alyce Vermilya led with 23 digs.
"(The) hits were pretty hard and (each player) had pretty high kill percentages, but we couldn't get the hitters the ball consistently," Peppin said. "Inland Lakes had difficulty defending our hits when we could actually transition to offense, but we struggled with serve receive. Slow reactions and sloppy passes made it difficult to set up any of our hitters."
Jessie Marlatt served eight aces, most of which came during a seven-point serving run in the fourth set. She also recorded 26 assists.
"Jessie had an impressive serving run in Game 4, but it was too late in the game for us to complete a full comeback," Peppin said.
Peppin said she wants her team to clean up its unforced errors – it had 22 on the night – when it returns to the court. Other than that, she was happy with J-L's ability to never give up.
"Despite the narrow losses, I was pleased with their effort and determination at the end of each set," she said. "They did not let off or quit, whether it was tied, we were down or game-point for Inland Lakes.
"We have worked hard at playing with self-control in tight situations, and they definitely showed that grit."
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
J-L Sporting Event Ticket Prices