Viki Harkin is not the same volleyball player she was last year. The difference could be described in one word: confidence.
Confidence can work wonders.
“I have way more confidence,” the Mattituck High School outside hitter said. “Last year I held back a lot.”
So much so that Mattituck setter Ashley Chew recalls Harkin asking her not to set her during a playoff match.
The Tuckers had a couple of hard hitters in Madison Osler and Kathryn Zaloom, and Harkin deferred to them.
“They intimidated me because they were so good, but I should have realized that I could hit like them,” she said. “I think that’s what I’m thinking this year, that I can hit as well as anyone else … This year I’m really just trying to just hit as hard as I can.”
And, boy, is it noticeable.
The 5-6 Harkin, nicknamed “The Flying Squirrel,” was a bona fide player last year. She became the first full-time freshman starter who wasn’t a setter to play for Frank Massa, who is in his 30th year coaching the team. Her play was impressive enough that she was selected the Suffolk County League VII Rookie of the Year.
Playing for her club team, the Long Island Fury, has done wonders for Harkin, though. She said she found her swing through offseason practices.
Coaches like to say that a player needs to hit a thousand balls to become a true hitter. Has Harkin hit that many?
“Probably more,” she said.
Chew noticed the difference in the ferocity of Harkin’s hits on the first day of preseason practice.
“It’s crazy,” Chew said. “She gets up so high and then just, boom, it comes out so fast.”
Harkin provides the perfect complement to the outside hitter opposite her, Osler. Together, they give opponents plenty to think about.
That was seen Wednesday when the two led Mattituck to a 25-15, 25-17, 25-15 defeat of visiting Southampton.
Osler led the way with 15 kills, four service aces, three dinks and an assist. Harkin had 11 kills, three aces, three dinks and two assists.
“Both of them together are amazing,” said Chew, who racked up 24 assists and went 13-for-13 serving.
Mattituck improved its overall and League VII record to 2-1. Southampton is 2-3, 2-3.
Like Osler, a senior, Harkin can blast away from the back row.
One of the things Massa likes about Harkin is what he sees after she mishits a ball.
“The thing that gets me more than anything else about her is she seems to have a very short memory and you can never tell that she just missed the ball or hit out or something like that,” he said. “She has a very good attitude when it comes to that type of stuff. She hits out, I just tell her: ‘I don’t care. Keep on swinging,’ and she does.”
Playing alongside Osler, who was an All-Conference choice last year, Harkin may not be the secret weapon she was last season. Teams will overlook her at their peril.
For Harkin, the key to hitting is placement. “You got to be smart,” she said. “If the set’s not there, you just got to choose spots and just be smart with it.”
For all of her hitting skill (Massa said her technique is “outstanding”), Harkin is a well-rounded player. “She can actually play any position on the court,” Massa said. “She can set for me, play libero, whatever.”
These days Harkin seems happy blasting away as an outside hitter.
It sounds as if those days of begging off sets are over.
She said, “Now I’m like, ‘Come on, come on,” motioning with her fingers in a bring-it-on motion.