BRADENTON -- There was a huge celebration in Manatee's gym Tuesday night.
Jacqui Armer was right in the middle of it.
The junior played a pivotal role in the Hurricanes' 3-2 win over Palm Harbor University, chipping in eight points and 5 1/2 blocks to help Manatee win a region semifinal volleyball match for the first time.
Making history was enough of a reason for the team to whoop it up with much of Manatee's student section after the win.
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But Armer had extra motivation, especially after her season was in serious peril a few weeks before the postseason, which continues Saturday for the Hurricanes when they head to Orlando Timber Creek to play for the Class 8A-Region 2 championship.
The team's captain and 6-foot-4 middle blocker who has committed to LSU, Armer was knocked by a devastating 1-2 punch, contracting the flu and mononucleosis at the same time.
"I slept in bed for two weeks straight, honestly," Armer said. "It was painful not being able to play."
Armer had 14 kills and three blocks during an Oct. 6 victory at Palm Harbor University that helped Manatee clinch the home court for the district tournament as well as the first two rounds of region play.
"That was the last day I was actually OK. I started feeling really bad that night," she said. "Then I didn't go to school for more than two weeks."
Armer missed the final four matches of the regular season but kept tabs on the team the best she could, exchanging texts with teammates and coaches before being able to watch a match from the stands.
That did little to cure Armer's itch to play again, however, especially because Manatee had a district title to defend.
"It was not fun," Armer said.
But Armer recovered in time for Manatee's playoff push, returning Oct. 21 for the Hurricanes' District 8 semifinal against St. Petersburg. Armer had six kills that night in a 3-0 Hurricanes sweep.
"That entire week was pretty rough. I wasn't allowed to lift or do anything else but practice and play," she said. "It was not a good week. But I feel a lot better, and I'm completely recovered now."
A healthy Armer helps round out a Canes offense fueled by fellow big hitters such as Haley Coulter and her younger sister JoJo.
"Having Jacqui back makes our team harder to decipher because there's more hitters for the other team to look at," Haley Coulter said. "There's not just a few of us; there's an extra person. And it helps make our team more intense and gives us more energy because Jacqui is really high spirited."
As rough as those two weeks were for Armer, she and her teammates have already made program history and are on the cusp of making more. Another win sends the Hurricanes to the Class 8A state final four.
They are all thankful to be here. Perhaps none more so than Armer.
"It's not even the two weeks," Armer said. "It's been my entire high school career, working toward this. I just want to keep going on to state."