Margie Grabmeier was ready to accept the position as the junior varsity girls’ volleyball coach at Hopkinton High prior to the 2001 season. Then life interceded.
She learned that she was pregnant with her third child, Angie.
Fast forward 18 years, and Grabmeier is on the varsity bench at Hopkinton, coaching her daughter, Angie, now a 5-foot-6-inch senior, and the rest of the 9-0 Hillers as they vie for their second state championship in four seasons.
Angie has a catalyst of that success, pacing Hopkinton in kills (59), aces (33), and assists (158) as a setter/hitter in Hopkinton’s 6-2 system. She gives a nod to her mother for her athleticism and her calm demeanor, but the duo ensure that the secret for Hopkinton’s success this season is not just kept in the family.
“One player can influence a game, but you can’t win with one player. And part of the success for Hopkinton over the years is generally balanced,” said Margie.
“It’s the player number four, five, six. Those are the ones that are going to make the difference on your team.”
Grabmeier has been at the helm of the varsity program since 2004 after getting her start with the JV team for two seasons. She had played collegiately at Penn her freshman year before stepping away to focus on her academics.
Early on, even with her mother coaching the sport, Angie instead focused on gymnastics. She was a Level 10 competitor through the eighth grade, competing at the national level. However, she gave volleyball a shot in seventh grade, for fun. She made the JV as a freshman and was called up to the varsity in the Hillers’ run to the Division 2 state title. A year later, she was a starter on a squad that lost to Newton North in the D1 final.
“Those [years] were kind of formative for Angie,” Margie said. “I’ve always had girls come over to the house for spaghetti dinners, which have been a part of her life, growing up.”
Angie added, “I always remember when I was really young, I was kind of nervous around the older girls, but they would cheer when I came in.”
An older daughter, Maggie, had played for Hopkinton from 2007-09.
One of Margie’s biggest concerns however, is displaying nepotism toward her daughter. She knows the type of team she has — a talented one, in which eager underclassmen like junior outside hitter Cadyn Boyce and junior setter/defensive specialist Rachel Leeret provide balance to the five seniors.
“As proud as I am of her as a coach, she’s just one of the girls. I have to separate it. I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I thought that it was unfair,” Margie said.
Margie’s position is more of a manager than a coach. She feels relaxed enough to trust her players to perform at their highest level, she just wants to make sure everyone is contributing.
“She brings it all together really well,” Boyce said. “We balance each other out, the hitters and the setters.”
“It’s a lot of team bonding and trying to make sure everyone is happy on the court, staying positive,” Angie said.
On the court, Angie doesn’t address her as ‘Mom’ either.
“Margie makes sure to preach that to everyone,” Angie said, finishing her thought about her mother’s approach.
That’s not to say having her daughter on the team isn’t advantageous for the rest of the players. Margie said Angie can key into her mother’s personality during tense moments during a match and relay that to her teammates, telling them when to step it up because she can tell when Margie expects more from them.
The Hillers reached the halfway point of their regular season Wednesday with a 3-0 Tri-Valley League win over Medfield to clinch a postseason spot. There are no talks of an undefeated season or state title just yet, but a 3-1 win over Barnstable on Sept. 13 was a good barometer of the type of season the Hillers can have. The 9-0 start is their best since the team started 8-0 in 2008. For the mother-daughter duo, and the rest of the Hillers, there’s still work to be done. There’s no time for making memories. Not yet, at least.
“I think I’ll appreciate it more at the end of the season. I’m happy to see her every day, but she’s one of the girls, and I’m lucky enough to be more familiar with a lot of the girls on this team because I have a daughter that age and I live in town.”
■ On Sunday, Nantucket will travel to South Deerfield to play perennial power Frontier Regional, for a 10 a.m match. That’s not a misprint on the schedule. All told, that’s a one-way travel time of 5 hours and 9 minutes, according to Google Maps, which includes the two-hour ferry ride.
How’d it happen? Nantucket was scheduled to play the Red Hawks Friday night, then stay in Western Mass. before taking on Turners Falls on Saturday. But Saturday is an SAT day for Nantucket. Now, the plan is to leave the island Saturday after the testing, hit the mainland, visit the Volleyball Hall of Fame in Holyoke, stay in the area Saturday night, play Frontier on Sunday, and then hopefully catch the 5:40 p.m. ferry from Hyannis to Nantucket Sunday evening.
“We have multiple [ferry] reservations booked,” Nantucket coach Andrew Viselli said. “Our athletic director [Chris Maury] doubles as a travel agent, weatherman, forecaster.”
Viselli planned the trip as a team bonding event for Nantucket, which is 4-4 this season. Frontier traveled to the island on Sept. 1 for its own team bonding trip, and won 3-0.
■ There’s a new Patriot League Keenan leader after Quincy stunned Duxbury Wednesday night, defeating the defending Division 2 South champion 18-25, 19-25, 25-20, 26-24, 16-14. It’s the second win for the Patriots over the Dragons in as many seasons. Both teams came into the match undefeated and Quincy is now 11-0.
■ Lynnfield’s Melissa Morelli dished out her 1,000th career assist Wednesday night in a 3-0 win over Triton. She registered 21 in the match, raising her career total to 1,006. Her next milestones? She’s 13 aces away for 200 and needs 49 kills to reach 600. With nine regular-season matches remaining, she’ll likely reach those marks.
Matches to watch
Reading at No. 13 Melrose, Friday, 5:15 p.m. — The Rockets (8-4) have won five in a row and are back in the hunt in the Middlesex Liberty. Melrose (9-1) is trying to establish another winning streak after its loss to Burlington last Friday.
Latin Academy at East Boston, Monday, 3:30 p.m. — The top two teams in the Boston City League North Division square off. Latin Academy is in first with a 4-0 league record (4-3 overall) and East Boston is in second (5-1 league, 6-2 overall) entering Thursday’s matches.
No. 19 Oliver Ames at No. 20 King Philip, Monday, 5 p.m. — The winner of this one gets first place outright in the Hockomock Kelley-Rex.
Lynn Classical at Revere, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 5:30 p.m. — NEC-leading Classical takes on the Greater Boston League-leading Patriots in an intriguing nonleague matchup of 9-1 teams.
No. 11 Lawrence at Haverhill, Wednesday Oct. 9, 5:30 p.m. — Haverhill handed Lawrence its only loss, 3-1, back on Sept. 20.
Brandon Chase can be reached at email@example.com.