BRADENTON -- Manatee's volleyball team had just won the Class 8A-District 8 title, and players were celebrating with their parents inside Palm Harbor University's gymnasium.
Some posed for pictures with the district championship trophy in tow. Others just shared laughs and hugs.
And there was Becca Butler, one of Manatee's senior captains, joking with her family while both shoulders were packed in ice.
Her ability to persevere through the pain is one of the reasons Butler has been named the Bradenton Herald's All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year, making her the second straight Hurricane to win the honor after Kayla Armer took it last season.
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Roughly a week before Manatee headed to Palm Harbor to play for the district championship, Butler hurt her left shoulder during weightlifting class.
Even though she's a righty, Butler was concerned what effect the injury would have on her postseason performance.
"I overdid it," Butler said. "I was worried it was going to hinder my play. But once you're in the moment, you don't really notice it that much."
Palm Harbor University noticed plenty of Butler, however. She totaled 22 kills and 17 digs to help Manatee, which dropped games 3 and 4 after winning the first two, win the district championship.
"It was exhausting," But
ler said of the championship match. "The adrenaline kind of took the pain away, so I didn't notice it. But it was definitely exhausting playing the five games."
A four-year varsity player, Butler knows a different, more excruciating kind of pain. After Manatee didn't qualify for the playoffs in 2010 and '11, the Hurricanes nearly dealt nationally-ranked Venice a humbling defeat in last year's Class 7A-District 11 final.
But after winning the first two games, Manatee watched the Indians, their longtime district nemesis, win the next three and accept the championship trophy on the Hurricanes' home floor.
Venice was out of the picture this season, however, as the Indians were bumped to Class 6A. And the Hurricanes, seeded third in the four-team district, got hot at the right time, knocking off Riverview in four games before heading up to Palm Harbor and heading back with a championship trophy.
"I don't have words for the feeling of (being) district champs," Butler said. "To finally overcome that and finally be district champions, I don't have words to describe that feeling."
Butler's fine season wasn't limited to the district final. She averaged close to four points a game for the Canes and earned MVP honors at the county tournament, where Manatee defeated Braden River in the finals.
Enhancing Butler's role even further was the absence of Haley Coulter, one of Manatee's top hitters who missed most of the season with an ankle injury.
Manatee's season came to an end in the Class 8A-Region 2 quarterfinals, where the Hurricanes lost to Valrico Bloomingdale. It wasn't the sort of finish Butler and the Canes envisioned. But it wasn't enough to damper a special season.
"High school wouldn't have been the same if I wasn't making all the relationships with players and coaches. I'm going to miss it a lot," said Butler, who hopes to play volleyball in college. "I think we did pretty good."