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Girls Volleyball Notebook: Harkin is a difference-maker

Like a superheroine, when the girl they call the “Flying Squirrel” made her return to the volleyball court, it was a triumphant one.

Viki Harkin’s was back, and in the nick of time for Mattituck. The sophomore outside hitter had sat out Mattituck’s previous five matches. Her on-court presence in Mattituck’s Suffolk County Class B semifinal was regarded as critical if the Tuckers were to defeat Bayport-Blue Point, which they did, 25-17, 26-24, 22-25, 25-23, before a charged home crowd on Nov. 2.

Harkin looked like her usual self. She knocked down a kill for Mattituck’s first point of the match, and drove the match point around two blockers and between a pair of back-row players to finish it.

“It was huge, her energy, like her quickness,” Mattituck outside hitter Madison Osler said. “I mean, she picked up a lot of balls that I should have picked up, so having her there today made a huge difference.”

Harkin ended up with 15 kills.

“She didn’t play like a sophomore, I can tell you that,” Mattituck coach Frank Massa said. “She plays every facet of the game extremely well. She passes well. She has a good instinct for the game. Some balls look like they’re going down an open area, then all of a sudden I see her flying over there and getting a hand on it. Her hitting ability is right up there.”

It’s hard not to see the difference she makes.

Harkin didn’t look like the moment was too big for her, either, when Mattituck faced Elwood/John Glenn in the county final at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood on Thursday. She had 11 kills in Mattituck’s 25-20, 25-19, 25-22 loss.

The difference Harkin makes was seen in her first practice since she landed on teammate Jaime Gaffga’s foot and rolled her right ankle. It was during that practice when Harkin swung hard and put a ball away. That was all the Tuckers needed to see.

“We were like, ‘Welcome back, hon!’ ” said setter/defensive specialist Julia Vasile-Cozzo.

Harkin, who wore a brace and had her ankle taped so tightly by a trainer that it was locked in place for the semifinal, sounded surprised to have played.

“I did not think I was going to be here,” she said after that match. “I didn’t think I was going to make it because it blew up so bad. It’s still black and blue. It’s still swollen. I don’t know how the doctor cleared me, but I’m glad he did.”

She wasn’t the only one.

• Osler’s farewell

With Mattituck’s loss in the county final came the end of Madison Osler’s playing career with the Tuckers. The three-year varsity player, Mattituck’s kills leader, pounded 17 kills in her final high school match.

“We just didn’t play our game today,” said Osler, who hasn’t committed to a college yet. “I think it was nerves, but I really came in here thinking that we were going to win.”

Mattituck will lose a lot with Osler’s graduation.

“Madison’s got to be right up there with some of the top players who have ever played volleyball here at Mattituck,” Frank Massa said. “The work that she put in, the amount of time and effort during practice and after practice, offseason, it was tremendous, a very good example for the other girls to see. You get a hitter like that once every five years. You’re going to miss a girl like that.”

Osler’s swing packs a heck of a punch.

“One time in practice she nailed me in the head,” Julia Vasile-Cozzo said. “I saw stars for a little bit. I had to walk off the court.”

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Photo caption: Mattituck’s Viki Harkin hitting the ball past Elwood/John Glenn’s Caroline Garretson. (Credit: Garret Meade)