TOKYO – They say the third time’s the charm, but Kelsey Robinson just needed two tries to reach the Olympic summit with the U.S. women’s volleyball team.
The former St. Francis standout played sparingly, in just two of eight games, for the Americans. Yet she made the most of her time both on and off the court – scoring when she was in the game and shouting in support when she was on the sidelines – as part of the first ever U.S. women’s team to win Olympic gold in the sport.
“It’s just an amazing feeling to have come this far and accomplished what we set out to do here,” Robinson said after Sunday’s 3-0 sweep of Brazil in the gold-medal match. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of women to do this with.”
The 29-year-old scored five points in a 3-2 pool play win over Turkey and six points in a 0-3 loss to the Russian Olympic Committee – the team’s only defeat on its way through Sunday’s final.
But there’s only six spots on the court for 12 of the best volleyball players in the world. With veteran U.S. captain Jordan Larson and newcomer Michelle Bartsch-Hackley excelling at Robinson’s outside hitter position, the former St. Francis star was the odd woman out.
For an idea of just how good the women ahead of her on the depth chart were: Larson, 34, won the Olympic tournament’s MVP award. Bartsch-Hackley, 31, was named best outside hitter.
Still, Robinson certainly played her part on the U.S. team’s journey to ending a 57-year streak without Olympic gold. She was a key member of the top-ranked 2016 team that settled for bronze in Rio de Janeiro and remembered the sting of losing to Serbia in the semifinal match of that tournament.
When this year’s U.S. squad faced Serbia again in the same round, Robinson made sure the eight newcomers to the Olympic team knew what was at stake. The U.S. went on to play its best match of the tournament and won in straight sets.
“We wanted the first-time Olympians to understand just how important that game was,” she said. “We came in and played like it was for a gold medal.”
Robinson has relished being a part of the first U.S. women’s team to ever win gold in the sport, and said it was the culmination of years of hard work. She has been involved with USA volleyball going back to the 2014 World Championships, in which she also won gold.
Her stacked international resume also includes three Volleyball Nations League championships with the U.S. team and a silver at the 2019 FIVB World Cup, the latter tournament in which she was named best outside hitter and best receiver.
Playing without fans in Tokyo because of COVID-19 prevention measures that banned family and friends from traveling, Robinson said the experience brought her even closer to her teammates.
“There wasn’t really anything to do outside of train and play in our matches with the way it was set up this year,” she said. “It felt more like a business trip, which isn’t a bad thing because our sole focus of being here was to win.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle