2020-21 Ski Valley All-Conference volleyball teams
GAYLORD — The Snowbirds and Cardinals were well-represented on the 2020-21 Ski Valley All-Conference volleyball teams, with a combined seven players recognized between the two schools.
Enduring a difficult season, filled with uncertainty due to COVID-19, Johannesburg-Lewiston and Gaylord St. Mary won their respective districts. The Cardinals also won the Ski Valley Conference for the first time in school history.
Cardinals senior Tara Madej and freshman Jayden Marlatt both earned first-team all-conference honors this season. Senior Jamie Burke earned second-team honors, while junior Autumn Vermilya received honorable mention recognition.
Snowbirds sophomore Ava Schultz and setter Abby Zimmerman earned second-team all-conference honors. Gracie Blust received honorable mention recognition.
Marlatt was a jack of all trades for the Cardinals this season. She finished second on the team in numerous statistical categories including kills (266), aces (91), digs (357) and assists (175). Madej led the team in kills with 374, while also recording 125 digs and 55 aces.
Burke also completed a well-rounded season for the Cardinals, leading the team with 100 aces. She also had 286 digs and 214 kills. Vermilya led with 768 assists, while also recording 291 digs and 46 aces.
In addition to all-conference awards, the Cardinals also received recognition by the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association as academic all-state, marking the 10th time J-L has earned that distinction in the last 12 years. Burke was recognized as individual academic all-state.
Schultz led the Snowbirds offensively with 200 kills. She also tallied 173 digs, 34 blocks and 34 aces. Zimmerman led with 360 assists, while also finishing with 52 kills, 105 digs, 17 blocks and 48 aces. Blust finished the season with 99 kills, 125 digs and 28 aces.
The Snowbirds (14-9) played far fewer games than the Cardinals (32-9) this season, mainly due to COVID-19.
J-L started the season unable to practice inside, and unable to host games. St. Mary struggled to even get games early in the season, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
But both teams quickly found their footing once restrictions were lifted, and although both teams lost in the regional semifinals, they were able to end their seasons on their own terms; one week before the fall postseasons were put on hold due to a massive surge in coronavirus cases throughout the state.
Cardinals and Snowbirds student-athletes displayed versatility and determination while battling through an unconventional volleyball season.
Here are the complete all-conference teams:
Cardinals volleyball loses regional semifinals to McBain
MANTON — A wild season has come to an end.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team lost 3-1 Tuesday against McBain to close out its season in the regional semifinals.
“In the match that we did win, we controlled the game start to finish, which showed me we had the potential to win the match,” J-L head coach Kristine Peppin said. “We just came out with some nerves. It’s hard to recover, but they showed some resilience. We went on some nice runs, but our hitting errors really accumulated. We had more hitting errors in this match than we had in any other this season. You just can’t win at the regional level with that.
“We were pretty evenly matched, but a couple serving errors at important times affected us. We did an excellent job picking out certain spots while serving, but we just couldn’t hold that momentum in open play. We had some bright spots. We did a really good job of running plays, we just couldn’t hit our lanes.”
Down 2-1 entering the fourth set, the Cardinals took an early 7-1 lead, pushing to extend the match into a deciding fifth set. But McBain regained momentum and claimed the set and match.
“I was impressed with the team as a whole,” Peppin said. “They fought the entire game. No one gave up even when we were facing elimination. They always believed they had a chance to win, and you can’t coach that.
“We were up (early) in set four, and we thought we were going to force a fifth set. We had them on the ropes. Anything could have happened in the fifth set.”
The Cardinals endured a tumultuous season. From practicing outdoors because of COVID-19 concerns, to constantly playing on the road, to then getting a more regular schedule, to finally again dealing with COVID-19 concerns to end the season, J-L responded to every curve-ball thrown its way.
“I’m proud of them after all the things they had to overcome,” Peppin said. “No one else had to deal with what this team had too. Their accomplishments this season rival some of the best seasons we’ve ever had. This team had a lot of school record averages, and a couple of players broke some records this season.”
Although the Cardinals featured a well-rounded squad all season, with every member of the team contributing in some way, Peppin highlighted Jayden Marlatt, Autumn Vermilya and Kylie Sietman as players who stuck out against McBain with their all-around play.
“Everybody in different games has had chances to shine (this season),” Peppin said. “If one girl was off, another would step up. Every person, at some point in the season, was a star in the game.
“Marlatt had some incredible diving saves against McBain. She is an incredibly athletic kid and the future is bright for her sports career in every sport she plays.
“Autumn Vermilya also impressed. She stepped up in the setter role this season, knowing where to spread the offense. Autumn has done a great job knowing how to spread the ball and where to set up plays.”
J-L enjoyed a successful season, winning the Ski Valley Conference for the first time in school history, while also lifting the district trophy. The future remains bright for the Cardinals as well, as several key players return to the squad next season, and a number of junior varsity players were called up to get some experience in the postseason.
Cardinals volleyball earns district title
JOHANNESBURG — The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team earned its first district title since 2016 Saturday with a 3-1 victory against Oscoda.
Having already earned their first Ski Valley Conference title in school history this season, the Cardinals added their fifth district title (2009, 2010, 2012, 2016 and 2020).
The Cardinals (32-8) won the first set 25-20, holding off a flurry of Oscoda attacks to gain momentum with steady defense and timely offensive plays.
J-L found things a little easier in the second set, earning a 25-14 victory to jump out to a quick 2-0 lead. The Cardinals overpowered Oscoda with a combination of powerful serves and hitting from seniors Tara Madej and Jamie Burke. Freshman Jayden Marlatt and Grace Baragrey also contributed some offensive force.
With the district title well within their grasp, the Cardinals dropped the third set 20-25 to lose out on the sweep. But the Cardinals have been able to quickly rebound after dropped sets all season, and they proved again on Saturday that they can regain momentum in a flash.
Primed and focused on their goal of a district title, the Cardinals shook off the disappointment of the third set with a convincing fourth-set victory.
J-L never trailed in the final set, setting the tone early. The score was tied 2-2, but J-L wasted little time breaking the deadlock and jumping out to a 9-3 advantage.
Oscoda tried to get back into the game, cutting the Cardinals lead down to 18-8 in the final set, but J-L answered with seven of the last nine points to win the final set 25-10 and claim the district title in front of a home crowd.
“We dominated the match from the onset,” J-L head coach Kristine Peppin said. “They played with confidence and played great defense. Oscoda fought for every point. We had lots of back-and-forth battles.
“The start of the fourth set (was crucial). Oscoda wasn’t handing it to us by any means. We jumped out to an early lead and cruised. We responded to a lost (set) in a very positive way and regained momentum. Oscoda was never really in that set, so that was a turning point in the match.
“Film analysis and knowing our opponents has helped us. We were able to coach the players in the moment, and they responded and knew where to make plays.”
The Cardinals endured a roller-coaster of emotions this season. A quick glance back at all of the Michigan High School Athletic Associations’ flurry of updates in August paints the picture of what this team faced to start the season.
Not only did the Cardinals begin the 2020-21 season practicing outdoors because part of their school district was still restricted due to COVID-19 concerns, they didn’t even know if they would have a season.
J-L couldn’t host games, had some games postponed, and the high school volleyball season was very up in the air. However, eventually the restrictions were lifted — although players were asked to wear masks, especially as COVID-19 cases steadily rose in the latter part of the season — and the Cardinals pounced on their opportunity to play.
The conference title and postseason success might be especially meaningful to the three seniors: Madej, Burke and Amanda Korff, who have worked hard for the program and saw the results of that intense dedication.
“(Winning districts) was another goal the seniors checked off their list,” Peppin said. “They had high hopes and expectations. Everything was up in the air week-to-week this year, and we have had COVID-19 positive tests in our area (recently), so we have been constantly wondering if we are even going to play.
“All three seniors have been around the program for a long time. They know exactly what we expect out of them and they have been role models to the younger players, always doing the job assigned to them. Their leadership makes the difference.”
Despite all the added variables thrown at the Cardinals this fall, they have turned in one of the most successful seasons in school history.
The Cardinals will look to add to their trophy case in the regionals. J-L plays McBain at Manton on Tuesday. Should the Cardinals win, they would play the winner of Traverse City St. Francis vs. Beaverton for the regional crown.
Cardinals volleyball clinches shot at district title
JOHANNESBURG — The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team edged Tawas 3-0 in three close sets Wednesday to march into the district finals.
Although the Cardinals were able to sweep Tawas in their district semifinal victory, they made things interesting. J-L won the first set 25-21; the second set 25-22 and closed out the night with a 25-23 third-set victory.
“We did not serve as well as usual tonight (86 percent: we haven’t been that low in a couple weeks),” J-L head coach Kristine Peppin said. “We’ve been hovering around 89-92 percent, and this was lower than usual. A lot closer games than last time we faced them in September. However, a really balanced offensive attack made a huge difference.
“Tawas had no answer for so many of our girls contributing. Autumn Vermilya also did a good job on play calling, making sure to spread around the offense and run plays. Jayden Marlatt and Delaney Hogle were all over the back row, covering multiple hits and tips from our opponent. Their defense was very good and allowed us to transition to offensive opportunities regularly.”
Marlatt and Jamie Burke led the Cardinals offensively with eight kills apiece. Burke also led with six aces. Tara Madej added seven kills, and Grace Baragrey finished with five kills.
Marlatt also led defensively with 17 digs. Vermilya added 14 digs, Burke had 11 digs and Hogle finished with 10 digs.
The Cardinals improved to 31-8 on the season with the win, and will next face Oscoda in the district championship Saturday at 10 a.m.
Cardinals win Tri at Forest Area
FOREST AREA — The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team gained some momentum before the start of districts by earning a victory at Saturday’s Tri at Forest Area.
The competition was originally scheduled as a quad, but Traverse City Christian was forced to drop out due to COVID-19 concerns. The Cardinals defeated Forest Area 2-0 (25-18, 25-21) and Central Lake 2-0 (25-18, 25-19) to earn the overall victory.
“(It was a) bit of a rough day hitting,” Peppin said. “We struggled to hit (28 errors) on offense, but played strong enough defense and served decent (88 percent for the team) to still come away with the win. Hopefully the nerves and sloppiness is out of our system as we prepare for districts.”
Burke led the offensively throughout the Tri with 13 kills and eight aces. She also pitched in defensively with 10 digs. Madej added 10 kills, while Marlatt and Baragrey had eight kills apiece.
Hogle led the Cardinals defensively with 26 digs. Marlatt had 14 digs, Vermilya added 12 digs and led the team with 37 assists.
Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball claims first Ski Valley Conference title
JOHANNESBURG — From practicing outdoors to hoisting a trophy, the 2020 volleyball season has been a whirlwind for the Johannesburg-Lewiston Cardinals.
As the summer months started to fade, the fate of the high school volleyball season was still left undecided for Michigan student-athletes.
Not only was the Cardinals' season thrown in doubt on multiple occasions, they also had to practice outdoors long after most teams in the area had been cleared to return to the gym because part of their school district was still in a more restrictive phase.
J-L went from not knowing if there would be a season, to practicing outdoors, to finally gaining some normalcy. They adjusted every step of the way to clinch their first Ski Valley Conference title in school history Tuesday with a convincing 3-0 victory over Bellaire on senior night.
“Just unbelievable. The turn of events of how this season shaped out from practicing outside to wondering if we were going to have a season, to not having any home games to a more normal schedule," J-L head coach Kristine Peppin said. "I'm really impressed of how they handled all the different situations thrown at them. (Winning a conference championship) was a goal for the seniors, so checking that off their goal list was great.
“We’ve been very close (to winning a conference title) many times, missed it by one game, one match. We finally broke through for the success that was just off our fingertips. It’s been just out of reach many times, so it speaks to the quality of players that we are producing out of our program. To finally achieve this was a goal of mine and the coaching staff for a long time. We’ve really taken things one game at a time the last couple seasons. We were great at (maintaining that philosophy).”
The Cardinals had one final test standing in their way of school history Tuesday night: a tough Bellaire squad who had stopped them from a share of the conference title last season. But J-L didn't mess around, comfortably winning in straight sets (25-12, 25-16, 25-22) to finish tied with Onaway atop the conference standings.
"We dominated Bellaire," Peppin said. "We led 19-4 in the second set, and in the first set, we were were up 17-8, so we had control of the temp from the beginning. That helped the girls' confidence and they ran with it.
"We were able to jump out to early leads, which gave (us) composure and control. They handled Bellaire's runs well, and relaxed and handled every situation with confidence.”
Seniors Tara Madej and Jamie Burke have been leading the Cardinals on the court all season, and they both stepped up against Bellaire. Madej finished with six kills, five digs and three aces, while Burke added 12 digs, eight aces and eight kills.
“Every year you live or die by the seniors on the court; if they are showing leadership and being role models," Peppin said. "We are very reliant on seniors leading us. They have the experience and we always need them to be on their best, and I think they were. And then you have underclassmen like Jayden Marlatt having huge days, it makes them unstoppable.”
Marlatt, a freshman, had 12 kills and 10 digs against Bellaire, again proving her versatility in key moments.
“Jayden has been playing awesome from the very beginning," Peppin said. "She hasn’t played like a freshman. She is very confident and we’ve asked her to do a lot. She had a very large and different role than we’ve asked a freshman to have. She had a lot of weight on her shoulders and flourished.”
J-L also again received valuable production from libero Delaney Hogle and Autumn Vermilya. Hogle led the team with 21 serve receptions, and tied Vermilya for a team lead with 19 digs. Vermilya also led the team with 24 assists.
“Autumn has been a huge play-maker for us and has really settled in,"Peppin said. "She had to run our offense and get used to it quickly. She’s completely comfortable with play calling, which has made it easier for our hitters. It’s a big jump to come from junior varsity to instantly be running the offense as a junior. Hitters have confidence in her and she has confidence in the hitters.”
Everyone on the Cardinals' team has their own role, which has helped the squad gel.
“I think it’s been really helpful that the players aren't worried about being pulled out because they are playing bad," Peppin said. "This season has mostly been set pairs and set rotations. They know it's their turn to do a job in a certain part of the game. Every girl has a spot and gets a chance to shine. Some players have more rotations than others, but everyone having a role helps build the girls up.”
The Cardinals will look to maintain momentum with districts approaching in early November. J-L will again host districts with a first-round bye.
"Hopefully they go into the postseason with a mindset that they’ve got this," Peppin said. "They have bought into the mindset of focusing on what they need to do."
After the difficult and uncertain start to the season, J-L has certainly proven its capable of overcoming numerous challenges to produce a result.
J-L volleyball rallies past Pellston; keeps conference title hopes alive
PELLSTON — The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team kept its Ski Valley Conference hopes alive Thursday night with a 3-1 road victory over Pellston.
After losing the first set 14-25, J-L quickly snapped into gear. The Cardinals had some sloppy moments early, but controlled the pace and settled into a rhythm the rest of the match.
The Cardinals won the second set 25-23. J-L maintained a slender lead throughout most of the set, and won some crucial points at the end to seal the win. The Cardinals then won the third set 25-21, and the fourth set, 25-23.
“The first game we just had too many hitting errors," Cardinals head coach Kristine Peppin said. "That was the biggest difference. We just weren’t putting the ball in play. We really cleaned that up the rest of the sets and we were making plays happen. We have been working really hard in practice to show a variety of offensive plays, and taking care of the ball on the serve, and that ultimately paid off.
"They are most pumped up when it’s a big game on the line. Every game I think their intensity grew. We take every conference game seriously. These last couple now, we’re trying to take control of the lead. This was the deciding game (for us) if we would be playing for first next week or out of the running. This was the game that made that difference. With this win, we have a chance to earn a conference tie with Onaway if we beat Bellaire. Had we lost tonight we would have been vying for second or third.”
Pellston dominated the first set the entire way through Thursday night, never letting J-L set up its potent offense. The Cardinals then regained momentum in the second set, but still it was anyone's match to win. Pellston never seemed to falter in confidence.
Perhaps the deciding moment in the game came midway through the third set. The Hornets led 9-5, using their steady defense and power on the outsides to regain momentum. J-L then rallied to take a 12-11 lead. The Cardinals still held a slender 22-21 advantage before winning the next three points to claim the third set and take a 2-1 lead. Had the Hornets continued to pile on points and won the third set, the match may have ended differently.
“It was a very competitive game," Pellston head coach Ashley Vieau said. "It was very fun to watch. I actually look forward to watching the tape because I never feel like I get to appreciate the game when coaching. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from J-L, they are always a team to come after, and they played well. But we played well, too.”
Entering the fourth set with a 2-1 lead, and knowing their conference title hopes were on the line, the Cardinals willed their way to victory in another fierce set.
The two teams were tied 7-7, 10-10, 13-13 and 21-21 in the fourth, and ultimately final, set. Both teams battled furiously, crashing to the court to save the ball and elevating for powerful spikes. they both played with intensity and passion as they tried to gain an edge.
J-L finally separated late in the fourth set, winning four of the last six points to again win a set, 25-23.
“Their intensity (was impressive)," Peppin said of her squad. "They were hitting the floor all over the place, diving after balls and making a lot of great saves. That’s enjoyable to see because they are giving every effort they have out on the court. They also did a really great job running our offense. We’ve been working on plays, and they did a nice job executing those.
“Being able to set up our offense was the biggest difference. We weren’t as effective setting up our plays even a week ago, so they have turned the corner on that. Head to head, we were going to trade points (tonight), so we had to do some deception and run a variety of plays. I think that was the difference.”
The Ski Valley Conference has been ripe with enthralling matchups all season. Almost every team in the conference this season has proven capable of winning a big match, which has kept things competitive for the players and coaches.
“In the Ski Valley you never know," Vieau said. "Even a team you don’t hear much about can come out and surprise you. There have been some surprises already this year. You just have to prepare for every day, and for the state tournament run, it's good to play in a conference that’s this competitive.”
Kills: Tara Madej (18), Jayden Marlatt (11), Jamie Burke (10)
Digs: Burke (25), Marlatt (23), Emily Crandell (15), Delaney Hogle (14), Autumn Vermilya (12)
Serve Points: Hogle (13), Burke (8), Crandell (8), Marlatt (7)
Aces: Hogle (6), Crandell (4), Burke (4)
The Cardinals next play Tuesday at home against Bellaire.
Cardinals volleyball loses five-set match against Onaway
JOHANNESBURG — The Cardinals volleyball team lost a five-set thriller at home Tuesday night against Ski Valley Conference rival Onaway.
J-L jumped out to a quick 7-1 lead in the first set, spurred by a run from Autumn Vermilya. But Onaway tied the set 10-10 and 13-13, trading points back and forth. The Cardinals worked their way into a game-point situation at 24-22 but two straight serving errors and a hitting error down the stretch cost them. Onaway ultimately won the first set 27-25.
The Cardinals cruised through victories in the second set (25-12) and the third set (25-20) with Jayden Marlatt, Tara Madej and Jamie Burke putting in quality performances. J-L jumped out to big leads in both sets and carried the momentum through.
J-L grabbed an early 10-7 in the fourth lead after two straight kills from Burke and a kill and an ace from Marlatt. But, like the first set, J-L could not maintain the lead, ultimately losing 22-25 to force a fifth set.
The Cardinals never really found their rhythm in the fifth set, losing 9-15 to drop the match, 3-2.
“We played scared from start to finish (in the fifth set),” J-L head coach Kristine Peppin said. “That was a tough pill to swallow. We dominated earlier sets, but nevertheless, we never really found our rhythm in (the fifth) set and had a ridiculous number of errors.
“We literally gave them 10 points they didn’t have to earn in a game to 15. It’s unlikely we would even be successful in a 25 point game with giving away so many points, much less a 15 point game. That was the hardest part of the loss. We really cost ourselves the win.”
The Cardinals (20-6, 4-1) next face Forest Area on Monday in a conference makeup game from September.
Cardinals remain undefeated in Ski Valley
INLAND LAKES — The Johannesburg-Lewiston volleyball team picked up a key Ski Valley Conference victory Tuesday night on the road against Inland Lakes.
Although all conference matchups are important, this one had a bit of added incentive after Inland Lakes recently defeated Onaway.
The Cardinals wanted to come out and prove they could topple the best teams in the conference, and persevered through a four-set victory. J-L won the first set 25-20, but lost 16-25 in the second set. The Cardinals quickly righted the ship, winning the third set, 25-22, and the fourth set, 25-21.
“There were definitely some nerves tonight, as we knew Inland Lakes had just beat Onaway last week,” J-L head coach Kristine Peppin said. “Going in, the girls knew they needed this win to stay in the hunt for a conference title.”
Utilizing their power and depth, J-L featured four players with at least seven kills on the night. Senior Tara Madej led with 13 kills, while Jayden Marlatt added 12 kills, Jamie Burke had nine kills and Grace Baragrey finished with seven kills.
Proving how well-rounded the team has been this season, the Cardinals also finished with five players collecting double-digit digs. Delaney Hogle led with 17; Autumn Vermilya finished with 15; Marlatt had 12, while Burke and Emily Crandell finished with 11 digs apiece.
Marlatt, a freshman, and Madej also led the Cardinals with five aces.
“Madej and Marlatt continue to impress as a lethal hitting duo,” Peppin said. “Emily Crandell played really solid defense and served well (She and Burke both scored 11 points serving, just behind Madej’s 12). Every girl contributed and scored for us, which is nice to see.
“I was really pleased with the adjustments we also asked the girls to make on the fly based on what Inland Lakes was attempting. They responded well and kept their cool throughout. Now that they are really solid on rotations and our offensive and defensive schemes, they can now turn their attention to fine- tuning our game. We will continue to work hard on serve receive and strive to not have a game letdown (like in the second set).”
The Cardinals (13-3, 3-0) next head to St. Ignace for a non-conference test on Saturday.
After earning a key victory on Thursday, the J-L volleyball team continued its success this fall by winning its quad at the Grayling Invite.
The Cardinals first defeated Alcona 25-12, 25-18, 13-15, and then Mio 26-24, 26-24, 15-13. J-L capped off the quad with a victory over Grayling, 25-22, 27-26, 16-14 to improve to 12-3 this season.
Tara Madej led J-L offensively with 32 kills. She also had 12 digs and four aces. Jayden Marlatt added 22 kills, 36 digs and 10 aces, while Jamie Burke recorded 20 kills, 27 digs and 14 aces.
Delaney Hogle led the Cardinals defensively with 42 digs. Grace Baragrey added 14 kills and five digs.
”It was quite a team effort with everyone contributing throughout the whole day,” Peppin said. “Having different girls lead categories throughout different matches and a balanced offense was our strength today. Still missing Kennedy Johnson, but she is tentatively returning in 3-4 weeks. Looking forward to our next Ski Valley matchup against Inland Lakes this Tuesday.”
The Johannesburg-Lewiston Cardinals defeated Ski Valley Conference foe Mancelona in straight sets Thursday night at home.
Continuing their dominant form, J-L toppled Mancelona 25-20, 25-20 and 25-18 to improve to 2-0 in the conference and 9-3 overall.
Autumn Vermilya led the Cardinals with 18 points serving, helped by her four aces. She also had 10 digs. Delaney Hogle added nine serving-points and led the team with 19 digs.
“Vermilya stepped back in the second game down 17-20 and rattled off eight straight points,” J-L head coach Kristine Peppin said. “It was a real critical time in the game for her to go on a big serving run.
“Autumn also was very vocal on the court and it paid off, giving her team a comfortable 2-0 lead in the match going into the final set. She did a nice job mixing up the offense and spreading it out to the hitters.”
Senior Tara Madej led the Cardinals with 20 kills. She also added three digs and an ace.
Jayden Marlatt and Jamie Burke added 13 digs apiece. Marlatt also had eight kills, while Burke finished with four kills.
”Mancelona was a scrappy team and stayed in it late,” Peppin said. “We actually trailed in the first two sets. We found ourselves up at 22-20. Burke served a pair of aces, and a kill by Madej was the exclamation point on the all-important first set. But our hitters were just too much to handle and went on big runs late in the game both sets to pull ahead for good.
”Overall, our defense and coverage has improved now that we are back in the gym full time. There were several blocks (that rolled both ways) and we were able to recover and transition to offense again. We did a good job of staying with the play until it was completely over.”