JOHANNESBURG — Jessie Marlatt may not be the flashiest athlete, but she knows just how to orchestrate and dominate a game.
Marlatt, finishing her third season as the Cardinals’ starting setter, proved her ability to set up scoring opportunities by finishing with 939 assists, which was good for second all time in J-L school history. She also recorded 83 aces, 267 serve points and 152 digs, proving her to be one of the most valuable athletes regardless of sport.
Living in the shadows as much as a star athlete can while playing a busy sport like volleyball, Marlatt was thrilled to be named Gaylord Herald Times Player of the Year for the second year running.
“It feels very awesome,” Marlatt said of the award. “Most setters don’t get that attention. It’s usually the hitters, but to be picked out of all the schools around me, and recognized for all the hard work I put in is very special. To get this award twice in a row is very unexplainable ad I’m overjoyed.”
Volleyball has been a major part of Marlatt’s life ever since she discovered the sport back in fourth grade. She quickly improved to the point where it was obvious she could do something special, and she continued to work hard to craft her skill.
“It meant a lot to me to play varsity volleyball,” she said. “It is definitely my favorite sport and I played a lot outside of high school season, too. Every one o the team got along really well, which made the game more fun. I love the spirit of the game and the adrenaline of it.”
“I started paying volleyball in fourth grade and I realized it was my favorite sport in my seventh-grade year. That’s when I knew what position I would play and what I would mean to the team. My mom is the junior varsity coach and she really helped me mature as a player.”
There was a moment in this year’s district semifinal game against East Jordan when the Red Devils had made a long run on J-L. The Cardinals looked a bit flustered, playing too fast and conceding points. But Marlatt, usually not a vocal presence, banded everyone on the team together to focus them and calm them. J-L rallied to win the set and Marlatt’s influence undoubtedly played a large part in that.
Marlatt said instances like that were easy to do this season because the team got along so well, which wasn’t always the case in her previous seasons on varsity.
“The girls got a long a lot better this year than last year,” Marlatt said. “We all connected super well, which made this season very special that we didn’t have to deal with any hard struggles, and we all bonded super well, which helped our performances.”
“I always strived to do what was best for the team no matter what the situation was. When we scored points it gave me a great feeling that I contributed and that I helped the team accomplish something.”
One of the main jobs a setter is tasked with on the volleyball court is dictating the pace of play. Like a point guard in basketball, setters run the offense, organize the rest of the team and help set up other players for scoring opportunities. Marlatt made all those responsibilities look easy with one simple philosophy.
“We always just went point by point,” she said. “When we able to play at our comfortable speed we felt confident we could win some points. I always tried to rally the team if we lost a point. It helped raise the spirits and it helped us slow back down and react to the task at hand. I always worked on helping my teammates understand that each point is special and it’s important we play at our own pace.”
Marlatt also attributed her individual success and the Cardinals’ team success to all the hard work and support the fans provided over the years.
“All the support we get and all the families who attend games really help our school and the programs,” Marlatt said. “All the coaches, students and parents really put a ton of effort into the whole program. Everyone knows everyone and it’s really nice to know that you are going to have consistent support throughout your entire high school career."
Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball upset in district final
JOHANNESBURG — It was a bit of a tough weekend to swallow for Johannesburg-Lewiston sports fans, as the volleyball team lost 3-1 in its district final Saturday against Inland Lakes, after the football team was eliminated from the playoffs Friday night against Beal City.
Both games were played at home for the Cardinals, and while the volleyball team didn’t have to play in sub-freezing, snow-covered conditions, it did have to play against a surging Inland Lakes squad a day later than originally scheduled.
The Cardinals’ district final volleyball game was supposed to commence Friday night, but with the football team hosting a playoff game the same night, J-L decided to move the volleyball game back to Saturday.
Utilizing a combination of patience on offense, power in attack and coordination on defense, J-L had enjoyed one of its better volleyball seasons in school history, even contending for its first conference title. But the team came out a little flat Saturday, losing the first two sets 25-19 apiece.
Perhaps a little shell-shocked at falling two quick sets to a team the Cardinals had defeated multiple times during the regular season, J-L bounced back with a 25-22 win in the third set.
The Cardinals’ momentum was short-lived, however, as Inland Lakes won the decisive fourth set 25-15 to claim the district.
“We just played very hesitant, like I've only seen them once this whole season (versus Bellaire in the conference championship game),” J-L head coach Kristine Peppin said. “Players were second-guessing themselves and just not playing their own game. We also had 11 serving errors and 20 hitting errors, which is huge.
“We gave away far too many points. I don't think (Inland Lakes) did anything special to beat us, we just beat ourselves. We ran far more plays and had way more offensive variety, but it wasn't enough when we made errors at critical times.
“We had already beat them three times this season, but it just didn't go our way today. A very disappointing loss to say the least. Not at all how any of us were expecting it to go.”
Senior star Jessie Marlatt finished her Cardinals career with a career-high 43 assists, continuously putting her teammates in position to win points. She also contributed seven digs and two serving aces.
“Jessie was two assists shy from entry into the MHSAA record books for assists in a match (45),” Peppin said. “She did an outstanding job setting up and spreading out the offense.”
Tara Madej led J-L offensively with 21 kills. Jamie Burke added 13 kills, while Grace Baragrey and Arielle Vermilya both had five kills. Burke led the team defensively with 19 digs. Vermilya added 14 digs.
The Cardinals were disappointed with the loss, but still enjoyed a fantastic season with a number of great results.
Johannesburg-Lewiston advances to district finals after two sweeps