Fatigued Cardinals lose heartbreaker to Alcona in district final
LINCOLN – Simply put, the Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team was gassed Thursday at Lincoln Alcona.
The Cardinals (13-25-3, 2-6 SVC) found themselves in a dogfight two nights earlier against Oscoda. The Owls took the first two sets, but J-L stormed back to win three straight and take a 3-2 win.
The emotional drain from that game got to them in the Class C district final against the host Tigers, and Alcona escaped with a 3-1 victory. It'll face Elk Rapids in the regional semifinal Tuesday, Nov. 7.
"We were down two games (against Oscoda), and it took a lot of energy to get back up with our backs against the wall," senior Alicia Korff said. "I knew I didn't want to lose to them at all. It was a lot of work to play every point perfectly and to come back and win three in a row.
"So I wanted to win (vs. Alcona), and I know everyone else did, too. I knew we didn't want to be done, but we knew we needed to play hard and harder than we did Tuesday, which is rough to do."
"After that, I was just in tears. It was difficult walking off a court you worked so hard on. It was rough."
"After that, I was just in tears. It was difficult walking off a court you worked so hard on. It was rough."
Korff, who is only 5-foot-3 1/2 but has a 26-inch vertical, recorded a team-high 16 kills. She had double-digit kills in almost every game to round out the season, a testament to her hard work the past three years on varsity.
That hard work helped J-L win the district championship in 2016.
"My sophomore year, I worked my butt off to play on varsity with my sister (Sarah Korff)," she said. "I went to a showcase in Lansing that year and told my mom I wanted to be a hitter.
"I was like a foot shorter than all the girls, and I worked really hard and hit the weight room and wanted to be the best I could be for the volleyball team."
Senior Deanna Miller pitched in seven kills and 11 digs, and senior Hannah Collins had seven kills and 10 digs.
Also for the Cardinals was senior Brittney McKenney with 18 digs, while sophomore Jessie Marlatt had 30 assists and 11 digs. Both McKenney and Marlatt made the All-Ski Valley team as an honorable mention this season.
LINCOLN – What's the best way to move on from a regular season that didn't quite go your way?
To pick up a statement win in your playoff opener, of course.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team overcame a two-set deficit to edge Oscoda 3-2 in the Class C district semifinal Tuesday at Lincoln Alcona. It advanced to face the host Tigers in the championship Thursday, Nov. 2.
The Cardinals (13-24-3, 2-6 SVC) earned 25-15, 25-21 and 15-12 victories after dropping the first two sets, 25-20 and 25-23.
"An amazing, amazing team effort," J-L coach Kristine Peppin said. "I'm so proud of the team and how so many girls contributed in so many different ways.
"It was just a blast for me to watch them succeed and achieve after working so hard this whole season and really working hard to train the mental toughness and personal drive aspect of the game. It paid off tonight."
The Cardinals never trailed in the deciding fifth set, which included them getting a side out to notch the winning point.
Three late side outs from J-L as well as a kill from Alicia Korff, who finished with a stellar 15 kills, ensured the win in the third match, while the fourth set saw the Cardinals overcome a late two-point deficit to force the fifth match. They needed a block from Tara Madej, a dig from Deanna Miller, a kill from Jessie Marlatt, and two points serving from Korff, which included an ace, to ensure the victory.
"We talked before Game 3 about never giving up and how I've had teams in this scenario before that have come back and won," Peppin said. "Not an easy feat but achievable. We had to be willing to truly leave it all on the court and not play scared, and they all agreed they weren't ready to just give up and have the season be over. ...
"Once this group gets rolling, they're hard to slow down. I just got to get that team to show up (continuously). For the remainder of the game, we did a really good job of self-control, holding our composure in tight situations."
Brittney McKenney led with 27 digs, followed by Miller with 14. Miller also pitched in six aces, while Madej finished with 2 1/2 blocks.
"What an amazing feat they pulled off tonight – narrow losses in the first two games, backs against the wall," Peppin said. "We came back to win three straight. We played poorly those first sets but were able to shake it off and turn it around."
Cardinals earn sweep in finale home stand of regular season
JOHANNESBURG – After sweeping a triangular to finish its home schedule, the Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team hopes to repeat as Class C district champions next week.
The Cardinals (10-21-3, 2-6 SVC) beat Suttons Bay 2-0 and Lincoln Alcona 2-1 in non conference play Tuesday.
They topped the Norsemen 25-20 and 25-17. They stole the second set from the Tigers 25-23 and hung on to beat them in the deciding match, 15-12. Alcona took the first set, 25-23.
J-L, which is slated to conclude the regular season at a tournament Saturday at Forest Area, faces Oscoda in the district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 31 at Alcona.
The Cardinals find themselves in a similar situation as last season, entering the postseason with just 10 wins but having enough talent to compete for the district title. Last year, they shocked the field and advanced to the regional round.
They hope to do that again next week.
"I think we have a good shot at a district championship," J-L coach Kristine Peppin said. "Our district is comprised of Whittemore-Prescott, Alcona, Oscoda and us. It should be good matches, if we play up to our potential, we have a good shot to be the dominant team and come home with a trophy."
Tuesday's tune up saw Brittney McKenney pace J-L's defense with 24 digs, while Deanna Miller contributed 14. Offensively, Alicia Korff had 12 kills, Amelia Lawrence chipped in seven kills and Jessie Marlatt finished with 34 assists.
Marlatt was 26 of 29 serving and finished with 19 points. Katie Kobylczak was 14 of 15 for nine points, while Tara Madej finished with 10 points from the service line.
"Fourteen of Marlatt's team-high 19 points were in our second game of the night vs. Alcona, including the final four points in Game 3," Peppin said. "We were down 12-10, got the side out and she served out the game."
Peppin was encouraged by the moxie her players showed against the Tigers to grind out a tough win.
"All the players did a really good job of holding their composure and really going for the kill at the end of that match when it was back and forth and a very close game," Peppin continued. "It was tied four times at 8s, 9s, 10s and 12s.
"It was a great showcase of what they can do when their intensity is up and (when they) really leave it all out on the court.
"Finishing with two wins tonight was a great confidence booster as we have our final days before playoffs. It was just what we needed, ending our home matches with some big W's and giving us confidence for our final tournament in Forest Area this Saturday and playoffs next week. All our hard work this season paid off tonight and, hopefully, (it) will carry us into playoffs."
Volleyball Roundup: Cardinals lose close on vs. Pellston
JOHANNESBURG – The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team almost completed a three-match comeback Thursday.
The Cardinals (8-17-3, 2-5 SVC) lost the first two sets to Pellston 25-17 and 25-15. Facing a sweep, they responded with 25-22 and 25-11 victories, but it was the Hornets who walked away with the 3-2 win after topping J-L 15-7 in the deciding fifth match.
"I'm very proud of the team's effort in Games 3 and 4, especially," J-L coach Kristine Peppin said. "Our backs were against the wall – lose and we would be done, obviously – and they stepped up their game big time.
"One big serving run (for Pellston) in Game 5 cost us the win. The match was within reach, but it slipped through our fingers yet again. We have been so close in so many games. We are still working on closing out a game strong."
Brittney McKenney finished with 35 digs, followed by Deanna Miller with 28 and Alicia Korff with 17.
Jayda Richter led with six kills, while Tara Madej, Hannah Collins and Korff each added five. Jessie Marlatt helped with 20 assists.
"We switched the lineup a little bit, and Jayda Richter did an amazing job in the middle," Peppin said. "She was aggressive but controlled while hitting on offense and a wall on defense.
"She really slowed down Pellston's offense with her blocking and forced them to hit over her hands, which made it far easier for McKenney and Miller to dig up."
J-L's admirable start falls short vs. No. 7 Onaway
ONAWAY – The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team couldn't keep up its offensive effort against seventh-ranked Onaway.
J-L (8-16-3, 2-4 SVC) lost 3-1, despite playing tough against Onaway in the first two sets, falling 25-22 in Game 1 and winning the next one, 26-24. Onaway picked up 25-13 and 25-11 wins in the ensuing sets.
"We were a completely different team from Games 1 and 2 to Games 3 and 4," J-L coach Kristine Peppin said. "I'm not sure what caused the difference, especially since we came off with a victory in Game 2.
"We had all the momentum. We controlled the tempo most of the first two games but couldn't muster up much offense in Games 3 and 4, and it was never close in either of those games."
Brittney McKenney finished with 28 digs and three aces, and Jessie Marlatt added 21 assists. Alicia Korff had seven kills, while Amelia Lawrence had five.
"Tonight was a good example of whichever team shows up to play makes all the difference in whether we succeed," Peppin continued. "Is it the team that won't let the ball drop and everything goes right or the team that can't get it together and everything that can go wrong does?
"When the first team shows up to play, I believe we can hang with mostly anyone. But when that other team shows up to play, we struggle with basic skills and start second-guessing ourselves, and everything just falls apart."
KALKASKA – After an average outing at a Grayling volleyball tournament two weeks ago, Johannesburg-Lewiston has started to turn things around and look competitive on the floor again.
The Cardinals (8-15-3, 2-3 SVC) only went 1-4 in Saturday's tournament at Kalkaska, but they garnered respect from some of the larger schools they faced.
They lost to Petoskey and Alpena – both Class A schools – but they split with the Wildcats, only losing the tie-breaker point margin by seven points. They dropped a close call to the host Vikings, a Class B school, and fell short against Houghton Lake.
But they topped Class B Kalkaska, 25-22 and 25-16.
"I thought we hung in well with the competition we faced today," J-L coach Kristine Peppin said. "Every school there was significantly larger than our school, and I thought we represented well.
"Despite the losses, we did a lot of good things today. We actually had leads in every game – except Petoskey – and just had trouble finishing games today, which is a marked improvement from even a few weeks ago when we were in close games but never had control of the score, and we were always playing catch up.
"Grayling's coach actually commented to me what a nice job my team did against them and how much they had improved from even two weeks ago when we played them at their tournament, so hopefully we can continue to build on our momentum and collect some more Wins, especially with Onaway next week."
Helping the Cardinals were Brittney McKenney (54 digs), Jessie Marlatt (54 assists, 21 digs, 21 serving points) and Alicia Korff (32 digs, 18 kills, 19 serving).
Deanna Miller finished with five aces, 20 points and 23 digs, Amelia Lawrence had eight aces and 13 kills and Tara Madej pitched in 15 kills. Katie Kobylczak was 17 for 17 serving.
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor
ST. IGNACE – The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team came one set win away from advancing to bracket play during a tournament Saturday at St. Ignace.
The Cardinals (7-10-3, 1-3 SVC) went 1-2-1 on the day, beating Cedarville 25-19 and 25-21, losing to Cheboygan 27-26 and 25-18 and splitting with Newberry and Engadine. Engadine, however, picked up the win by way of a point-margin tiebreaker.
Had J-L tied with Engadine outright or escaped its close loss with Cheboygan, it would have made it to the tournament semifinal.
Jessie Marlatt finished with 50 assists, 20 digs and 16 points serving, Brittney McKenney had 48 digs and Alicia Korff added 33 digs and 25 kills.
Also for J-L were Amelia Lawrence with six aces, 15 kills, 15 points and six digs, Deanna Miller with 31 digs and 20 points and Katie Kobylczak with 18 points and 10 digs.
"Alicia Korff served well throughout the day and had a strong offensive day as well," said J-L coach Kristine Peppin, who missed the tournament. JV coach Kim Marlatt coached in her place. "Amelia Lawrence also played well at the net, and Brittney McKenney had an array of nice saves on defense.
"The hitters all did a really good job of calling for the ball and making some tough plays at the net. The team started a little flat early on in the day but picked it up later in the day."
Peppin said the team battled heat fatigued but played well against quality opponents.
"Every point really mattered, and we needed to do a better job of playing with urgency and treating every situation like it was a game point," Peppin said. "Losing those two tight matches (to Cheboygan and Engadine) made all the difference today."
Marlatt covers the court for Cardinals in tough loss to Bulldogs
JOHANNESBURG – The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team came up just short Tuesday at home.
The Cardinals (5-9-2, 1-3 SVC) dropped a close Ski Valley game to Inland Lakes, 3-2. They won the first and third sets, 25-21 and 25-18. The Bulldogs won the second, fourth and fifth games.
In the deciding fifth set, which Inland Lakes won 16-14, J-L trailed 14-12 but fought back to knot the score.
"I always have pushed players to go for the win and go for the kill – win or lose – and I thought they did a really good job of that tonight," J-L coach Kristine Peppin said. "You don't just do that without a lot of heart and effort.
"We just had a couple of plays not go our way at the end, but when the biggest game is on the line at the end of the season, I know they'll be ready."
Jessie Marlatt had an active night, finishing with 42 assists, 26 digs and 22 points serving. Brittney McKenney added 35 digs, Alicia Korff had 20 digs and 12 kills, Amelia Lawrence pitched in 13 kills and Tara Madej had 10 kills.
"I'm proud of how the girls played tonight," Peppin continued. "It was a great team effort, and they left it all out on the court, especially in Game 5. It was a very intense game, and I couldn't be happier with their all-out effort. (They were) diving for saves, chasing down passes and doing everything they could to keep it in play.
Cardinals keep it simple while sweeping Ironmen
MANCELONA – The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team kept it simple, and it paid off Thursday at Mancelona.
The Cardinals topped the Ironmen 3-0, collecting 25-18, 25-19 and 25-15 victories en route to their first Ski Valley win this season.
"Our mission tonight was simple: Keep the ball in play no matter what," J-L coach Kristine Peppin said. "We just aren't the team who's going to crush the ball for a kill every time, but we can be the team that consistently puts the ball back in play every single time. Our goal was to keep the ball in play longer than them, and it worked for us tonight."
The Cardinals (4-6-1, 1-2 SVC) received offense from the service line from Brittney McKenney (13 points, six aces), Jessie Marlatt (12 points, six aces) and Amelia Lawrence (nine points).
Lawrence added 14 kills, Marlatt had 26 assists and McKenney pitched in 16 digs.
Also for the Cardinals were Hannah Collins with four kills, Deanna Miller with 14 digs and Alicia Korff with six kills. Tara Madej and Jayda Richter also helped on offense.
"We also really cut down on hitting errors tonight, and that made a huge difference in our game because we didn't just give away so many points," Peppin said. "Jessie Marlatt really did a nice job of balancing out our offense tonight, too.
"We had Mancelona's defense guessing where the hits were coming from, and that kept it open for all our hitters to get kills, especially both middles, Lawrence and Madej, and right side hitter Jayda Richter. They were getting great swings at the ball."
JOHANNESBURG – The St. Mary volleyball team's hitters didn't get off to a great start Tuesday, but coach Pat Schultz noticed senior Emily Myler was finding some success.
So between the second and third sets, with St. Mary and host Johannesburg-Lewiston tied 1-1, Schultz told his daughter, Maggie, the team's setter, to keep passing to Myler. He knew Myler was the hot hand and someone the Snowbirds should rely on.
Coach Schultz's hunch was right, as Myler went on to collect 15 kills and help the Snowbirds take the final two matches, ensuring them a 3-1 win in their Ski Valley opener.
"During the timeout, we told Maggie to feed Emily because Emily was swinging well," Coach Schultz said. "To Joburg's credit, I thought they played really good defense, covered the floor well and kept some rallies alive, but we kept feeding Emily, and she was hitting well.
"At that point, Emily was starting to warm up. Even if Emily was in the back row, we wanted Maggie to just start feeding her. She was the hot hand tonight, and that's who we went to."
After J-L (3-6-1, 0-2 SVC) picked up a 25-20 win in Game 1, the Snowbirds responded with three straight wins, including a 25-23 edge in the second set.
St. Mary (4-3, 1-0 SVC) won the next games 26-24 and 25-21, respectively, after Coach Schultz told his team to find Myler at the net on offense.
Averi Bebble pitched in 11 kills and five aces, Maggie Schultz added 28 assists and Anna Torsky had 10 digs.
However, Coach Schultz knows his other hitters must step up so opponents won't key on Myler in future games.
"Emily was pretty consistent all four games. Emily was a workhorse," Coach Schultz said. "But for us to be effective against other good teams, we have to be able to spread the ball around. When you only feed one kid, you become one dimensional. Sooner and later, teams are going to figure out how to double block you."
Alicia Korff led J-L with 10 kills and eight digs, while Tara Madej added 10 kills, Jessie Marlatt pitched in 17 digs and Katie Kobylczak had 10 digs.
J-L coach Kristine Peppin thought her offense didn't do a good enough job being unpredictable.
"Mostly, we needed to do a better job of spreading out the offense," she said. "Too many of the same hitters made for an easy setup for their defense.
"Our best kills were when we mixed up the kids and kept their defense guessing where the ball was coming from."
Peppin was happy with her team's serving (92 percent from the line), but she knows the Cardinals must improve elsewhere going forward.
"Even with our silly mistakes, the games were still close so we can build from that," Peppin said. "I think cleaning up our passing just a little bit more and working on utilizing all our hitters and more variety on types of hits will help us tremendously as we prepare for Mancelona next week."
Defensive mistakes cost Cardinals in SVC debut
FIFE LAKE – Some defensives woes doomed the Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team in its Ski Valley opener
The Warriors topped the Cardinals 3-0, picking up 25-11, 25-6 and 25-12 wins.
"We struggled tonight with serve receive especially," J-L coach Kristine Peppin said. "They were good servers, and we just couldn't get our offense set up. I have to give the Forest Area team a lot of credit for very controlled play and just waiting for us to make the mistakes. We did precisely that."
The Cardinals (3-5-1, 0-1 SVC) received help from Jessie Marlatt, who served two aces and had 17 assists. Amelia Lawrence had six kills, Alicia Korff added five kills and four digs, Hannah Collins pitched in four kills and Brittney McKenney finished with 13 digs.
"We just didn't take care of the ball on our side of the net, and the lack of communication didn't help," Peppin said. "Silly errors and mental mistakes plagued us – things we've done many times perfectly, but we just didn't get them done correctly tonight. It was an off night all around."
Learning Cardinals stumble at St. Mary tournament
According to coach Kristine Peppin, Johannesburg-Lewiston's new starters showed promise Friday at St. Mary.
The Cardinals (1-2) beat Ellsworth 2-0 but fell to Hillman and Northport in pool play of the eight-team tournament.
Brittney McKenney led with 28 digs and 11 serving points, while Amelia Lawrence (14 kills, four aces) and Jessie Marlatt (29 assists, four aces) impressed Peppin with their play.
"We definitely have some growing pains to go through early on this season, and that was true today," Peppin said. "Our younger players gained valuable experience and really showed some promise – as did the team as a whole.
"Despite the record for the day, I was pleased with their overall performance and look forward to seeing their progress in the coming weeks."
The Cardinals host a tournament Thursday, Aug. 24. They look to build off their effort in the opener.
"I thought we had a solid first day," Peppin said." They did a lot of things right, and we know what we need to work on to improve.
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor
JOHANNESBURG – Johannesburg-Lewiston senior Brittney McKenney understands a lot rests on her shoulders now.
The libero will spearhead her volleyball team's defense, something ninth-year coach Kristine Peppin said the Cardinals must rely on because of their height deficiency this fall.
"It makes me feel like it's a big responsibility to get the girls ready in the back row, knowing that this is my last year to show them certain skills in the back row that they'll need to understand next year once I'm gone," McKenney said.
The Cardinals (12-29-1) used the height of seniors Taylor Kroll, Ellen Weaver and Claire Huber to capture a Class C district championship and play in the regional round in 2016.
They have only two players (junior Jayda Richter and freshman Tara Madej) who are taller than 5-foot-10 now. Shorter hitters such as Alicia Korff, Hannah Collins and Jersey Layman will have to rely on their athleticism to get the job done.
"Hopefully, we make up for that with our jumping," Peppin said. "We've been working hard on conditioning and really building up strength. We're going to try to use that to our advantage."
McKenney said it's much different passing to shorter hitters, and doing so adds urgency to the defenders behind them.
"It's a lot different because it means our defense will have to be ready," the third-year starter said. "A lot of the blockers from the other teams will be bigger, so we're going to have to be ready to cover for our hitters."
Both Peppin and McKenney believe a bulk of their offense will begin with strong digs on defense and great passes from setters.
"I think our strength is going to be our defense," Peppin said. "We have a lot of returning players in the back row. That's going to, hopefully, give our setter a good ball, and then we can work from there. That's what we're focusing on, too, is getting the girls those reps back there.
"That's got to be our strength this year. I think that's what's going to keep us in matches that maybe we otherwise wouldn't be in. Brittney, at libero, will be all over the court. She's going to dig up a lot of hard hits that I think we're hopefully going to turn into offense."
Also helping the Cardinals are seniors Deanna Miller and Shawna Drumb, juniors Amelia Lawrence and Katie Kobylczak and sophomore Jessie Marlatt.
The goal again is to win a district championship. McKenney said there are two keys to doing that with a defensive-minded team.
"We need a lot of intensity, a lot of heart in the game," she said. "We're a small team, but it depends on our intensity and how well we're playing. We can win against big teams. We just need a lot of intensity and heart in the game."
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