For most of last year, Kelsey Robinson played libero for the United States women’s national volleyball team, but she’s back at her normal position as an outside hitter this year.
Robinson, who earned first-team All-America honors during her only season at Nebraska in 2013, started her first match of the year Wednesday during the Americans’ three-set win against Germany in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League in front of about 5,000 fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Her ability to play two positions gives her a better chance to make the roster for major tournaments, but she’s glad to be back playing outside hitter.
“I’m always excited to be a part of USA any way that I can be. So for me, it’s just exciting to have the opportunity to represent USA,” said Robinson, who this week signed an endorsement deal with Adidas. “But it is comforting to play a position that I know well.”
Robinson had a great all-around match, with 11 kills, four blocks, three ace serves, and she twice had the kill on set point.
“There was her first outside hitter match for USA in over a year and it was really fun to watch her do her thing,” said U.S. coach Karch Kiraly. “And that won’t be the last time this year. That was just the first of 2019. I’m sure she was pumped, because we’re playing in Lincoln.”
Americans get second win in Lincoln: The United States won its second match this year in Lincoln with the 25-18, 25-22, 25-18 victory against No. 15 Germany. Former Husker Mikaela Foecke had a team-best 13 kills, and current Cincinnati player Jordan Thompson had nine.
Kiraly was pleased to win, but thought his team could have played better.
“Our blocking was not nearly as effective as it should have been over the course of the evening, but we also had some really nice, tough serving from people like Kelsey Robinson,” Kiraly said. “And Jordan Thompson just jumping high and hitting it really flat across the net.”
Changes of plans: Dana Rettke expected to tour the world this summer, but she was planning to do so with the Wisconsin volleyball team on its once-every-four years international trip. Then there was a change of plans when the 6-foot-8 junior middle blocker for the Badgers got a call from Kiraly to join Team USA.
The national team has a tryout each winter that hundreds of college players attend, but Rettke wasn’t one of them.
“I just got a call from Karch and he said we’d love to have you, and I was more than exited to come on out and do whatever I could for this team,” Rettke said.
So Rettke has played the first three weeks of the Volleyball Nations League. But after Thursday’s match, she’ll fly to Europe to rejoin Wisconsin, which began its trip Wednesday. She may rejoin the national team later in the summer.
Playing for the national team has been great, the 20-year-old Rettke said.
“The competition from college to here is a huge step up, and I think I’m really playing on the edge of my ability," she said. "I’m getting a lot better. That’s when you improve, is when you play better competition. It’s been awesome."
Rettke started Wednesday and had four kills and three ace serves.
New start: This is the 11th year for ex-Husker Jordan Larson with the national team, but it is still always new when you play the first match of the season. Larson played her first match of the year for Team USA on Tuesday, when the Americans beat Korea in four sets.
“Some of these girls I just met a couple of days ago,” Larson said. “So getting on the court the first time and kind of learning each other is always an interesting transition.”
Larson did not play Wednesday. She's played in 251 matches for the senior national team since making her debut in 2009. That includes 16 Olympic matches and 36 in the World Championships. The record for most national team appearances is more than 400, by five-time Olympian Danielle Scott.