When considering the next steps before graduating, coaching hadn’t really occurred to Emma Sweetapple. After graduating from the University of Delaware in 2015, the former Hopkinton High star was offered a role as the Hillers’ freshman coach.
Thus began her journey.
Sweetapple took the offer and held that position for a year before becoming the JV coach for the past six years, all seven while serving as a college assistant.
“I’ve always loved the sport, but never really thought about coaching,” Sweetapple said on the phone last week. “But I’m really glad I did it because it’s become one of my biggest passions.”
Not only did Sweetapple play for longtime Hopkinton varsity coach Margie Grabmeier, but she also worked closely with Grabmeier during her time as an assistant. And both Sweetapple and Grabmeier knew full well that there would come a time when the latter would call it a career.
That time came at the end of the 2021 fall season, one in which the Hillers went undefeated and won a Division 2 state title.
Lake:Hopkinton girls volleyball team rally to beat Westborough in Div. 2 state championship
It didn’t take long for the vacancy to be filled. Sweetapple was officially named as Hopkinton’s new head coach on January 14.
“This is just very exciting and very humbling,” said Sweetapple, 28. “This is what I’ve been working towards since I started coaching and fell in love with it. I’m beyond honored because this is an incredible program. This was It’s really been a full circle moment for me, from working with Margie to stepping into her position. I feel like it hasn’t quite reached me yet.”
“When I first heard the news, I was just so proud,” said Grabmeier, who finished with 307 career wins and three state titles. “She is family to me and I couldn’t be happier for her. I don’t know anyone better suited to take the helm and I’m delighted to see her making her mark on the program.”
To see:Hopkinton High girls volleyball players past and present say thanks to Margie Grabmeier
As expected with a position like this, Sweetapple wasn’t the only candidate.
And like all the other candidates, she had to apply and go through the application process. Sweetapple was interviewed via Zoom the day before she was hired by Hopkinton Athletic Director Rich Cormier, Assistant Athletic Director Louise (Lou) Sanborn and Vice Director Laura Theis.
With how quickly she was hired after an interview, it’s clear that Sweetapple had a direct and direct impact on the hiring committee. In turn, she was able to distance herself from the other candidates.
“Emma did a great job during the application process and was the clear choice,” Cormier said. “It’s great to have experience and to be familiar with the program, but beyond the experience she is the right person to lead the program in the future. I wasn’t sure if she would be interested because it’s not easy to take over from someone like Margie, but she was.
“Internal candidates often put a lot of pressure on themselves, but Emma handled that pressure extremely well and broke away. We are thrilled that she is leading our program.”
Sweetapple didn’t play volleyball in college, saying she “got a bit out of touch with some of the more complex aspects of the sport during college.”
Grabmeier always encouraged Sweetapple over the years to come with her to various clinics, meetings and competitions (to scout). Sweetapple was never afraid to ask questions and was always willing to learn during her learning experience. From a coaching standpoint, Grabmeier helped Sweetapple develop skills both on and off the field.
Meet:The coaches named Fall 2021 Daily News Coach of the Year
This also included the motto Grabmeier always used: modest in victory, graceful in defeat.
It’s one that Sweetapple wants to keep driving home while guiding the Hillers forward.
“Margie helped me regain knowledge of many of those aspects,” Sweetapple said. “She helped me learn more about the sport and pushed me to be the best coach I can. We have very similar coaching styles, which I think will help a lot. But it’s not just about teaching girls volleyball either “It’s about teaching them skills that translate into life, including sportsmanship, both winning and losing. She’s just developed a really respectful program, which is something I want to continue throughout my tenure.”
Lake:Hopkinton girls volleyball perfect in coach Margie Grabmeier’s last season on the bench
Grabmeier also shared her own take on how a coach who follows in her footsteps can immediately impact the athletes both on and off the field.
“Emma has always been a leader, both as a coach and as a player,” Grabmeier said. “She has been my right-hand man for the past seven years and has played a role in all major program decisions during that time. We share exercises, motivational quotes and humor, but Emma will start with more experience and knowledge than I had when I took over the program. The future of Hopkinton volleyball is bright!”
Sweetapple lives in Milford and has spent the past four years teaching digital media at Tewksbury High.