Prep volleyball | Manatee Hurricanes hold on, earn Class 8A-District 8 title

Squad withstands Palm Harbor University rally, will host region quarterfinal

jlembo@bradenton.comOctober 25, 2013 

PALM HARBOR -- The scenario was eerily similar.

The result, however, was completely different.

A year after coming up painfully short in a district final, Manatee's volleyball team withstood Palm Harbor University's furious comeback and claimed the Class 8A-District 8 championship with a 3-2 win Thursday night.

Moments after capping a 15-7 win in Game 5, Manatee's girls screamed and shouted and posed with the district championship trophy while their camera-toting parents snapped away. It was the polar opposite of last season, when the Hurricanes (19-8) won the first two games against Venice before dropping the final three.

On Thursday night, it almost happened again. Manatee won games 1 (26-24) and 2 (25-18) before top-seeded Palm Harbor, also nicknamed the Hurricanes, took 3 (25-21) and 4 (25-18) to set up the finale.

"It was like déjà vu," said Manatee coach Rachel Batey. "We started playing kind of frantic."

This time, Manatee restored order in Game 5, rattling off five straight parts to take a 5-1 lead. Palm Harbor closed to within 6-5 before Becca Butler's kill set up a five-point rally that helped the local Canes pull away.

Butler, her sore shoulders wrapped in ice after the match, finished with 22 kills on the night. "A little nervous after we lost the third and fourth game, but very happy to come out with a victory," said Butler, who hurt a muscle in her left shoulder during weightlifting class. "It definitely feels a little surreal. It hasn't hit me yet."

Hailey Coulter, who missed most of the regular season with an ankle injury, had 15 kills Thursday and 40 in the two district tournament games, as did Butler. Manatee defeated second-seeded Riverview on Tuesday.

"They just showed that they wanted it in that last match," Batey said. "They started playing their game instead of playing scared.

"It feels so good," she added. "I'm so proud of them. I'm beyond proud -- they're starting to learn how to finish a match."

Jacqui Armer had six blocks, Kaitlyn Shaver added 35 assists, and Jessalyn Kinlaw had 22 digs.

The Hurricanes, who lost to Venice five times in the district final since 2005, will host District 7 runner-up Valrico Bloomingdale at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a Region 2 quarterfinal.

"It feels great," said Butler, who missed last year's regional playoff game at Stuart Martin County with a sprained ankle. "I'm excited to see what it's in store for us and excited to have homecourt advantage."

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