Walking into Shottenkirk Gymnasium Thursday night for the WACO v. No. 5 Holy Trinity Catholic volleyball match, I think I yawned a bit. The Crusaders are on a tear right now and I didn't expect any surprises.
As I walked into the gym, Assistant Coach Tom Gendron blew that up in about 30 seconds. "We got a new addition on the bench," he said.
"What?" I said, and looked over at the bench. I'm not really good with names until I've talked to you about six times. It's a short term thing... might be a Jameson thing. So I really don't know who's on the bench except the perennial Melissa Freesmeier and Gendron.
I must have given a blank look and shrugged my shoulders, because he looked at me quickly and said, "Mikaela!"
Oh! and a doubletake later I immediately recognized the 6'3" HTC, University of Nebraska, and Team USA standout Mikaela Foecke in a Crusader kit by the bench.
I could take up the rest of this column space listing the accomplishments of Foecke from being selected Gatorade National Player of the Year as a senior at HTC, to being named co-Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament as a Husker, where she led Nebraska to national titles in 2015 and 2017. But she's back in the area and probably looking for a bit of down time, so we'll leave that at that.
But I heard a description of her Thursday night in the coach's office at HTC that I hadn't heard before.
It's a term I'm familiar with deeply. Not from re-runs of Starsky and Hutch on Amazon Prime, but in my own household.
I was usually the bad cop to my wife's good cop. On occasion I got to wear the white hat, but I have kind of a booming voice and had two girls. I just slipped into the role very well.
When I asked Freesmeier what Foecke's role would be with the team, I got "Good Cop, to my Bad Cop."
I've been watching Crusader volleyball for six years professionally. I also covered Melissa for the Democrat and as a stringer for the Hawk-Eye when she was at Marquette.
I've never seen Melissa be the bad cop. Well there was this one time at WACO, she had this clipboard, and some colored paper, and... never mind.
Anyway, in that office on Thursday, I said, "I have a hard time believing you as the bad cop."
It stopped the room. This collegiate-style atmosphere with about six coaches all bustling about with different post match assignments looked at me like, "who are you, and we thought you were good at this."
Apparently there's a side that I haven't been privy to.
Obviously there's demand from a coach with two state titles and more than 1,000 wins. But I always assumed it was that nurturing, pampering demand that you get from your mom that comes with hugs and chocolate chip cookies.
Maybe that explains why Dr. Pothitakis always sits in the upper deck at the state tournament.
Melissa's always been good to me because she knows that after six years of covering HTC, I still know more about jet propulsion than why a libero has to be 'tracked'. Even I know where she is, she's the one in gray or white and usually wears No. 1.
I guess I need to look closer to home to understand the power of "Bad Cop."
My mom raised four boys on her own, so she played Good Cop and Bad Cop. I remember the Bad Cop showing up because, let's face it, crimes had been committed. But as we got older and moved away and it was okay to go back and talk about those crimes, she became the Good Cop.
With her grandchildren she is the epitome of the Good Cop.
But the thing about the Bad Cop is they are usually right, have a great sense of humor, and have no tolerance for wasting time. They also demand results and resolutions to problems. Because they've been there before, and they know the way home.
I did experience Bad Cop Freesmeier one dark and stormy night in West Point. I didn't ask a stupid question - well, actually I did, but it had nothing to do with volleyball. Lee and I were enjoying a meal at Aggies in West Point. If you haven't eaten there, put it on your list.
I ordered a beer with my meal and it came in just a regular mug. I sent the waitress back to tell the bartender that I'm sure they have a bigger mug somewhere. Melissa just happened to be there and hearing the comment, grabbed an empty pitcher, walked up to our table, and placed it not-so-gently next to my plate.
"They have a bigger mug, Chuck - it's called a pitcher."
My wife laughed, and with raised eyebrows and shoulders had that, 'You asked for it', look, which was accompanied by the inevitable "I like her" - look.
I sunk down at the high top in my chair. "I'm fine with this thank you."
Now I'm a 6'3" 228 lb. man and my weight may be distributed a little differently than when I was in high school. At least that's what Lee says, but I'm not intimidated by many or much.
But Melissa, much like my mother, and my wife, does carry a certain - let's just call it 'authority'. Whether it's about a beer, or reporting on a volleyball game, cleaning my room, or moving furniture in my house...
I just do what I'm damn told.
I wasn't covering the Crusaders from 2010-2014 when Foecke played at Holy Trinity Catholic, but I'm fairly certain everyone is enjoying seeing her back in the fold. Just another exciting chapter in the storied franchise that is Crusader volleyball - but that's Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is the editor/co-owner of the Pen City Current and can be reached at email@example.com.
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