Life is going well right now for Kelsey Robinson.
A quick recap for the former Nebraska volleyball player: She’s an Olympian, she got engaged in the past year, she had a highly-successful professional season in 2018 and now she’s the starting libero for the United States women’s volleyball team, the No. 2 team in the world.
And this week, a journey for Robinson and the U.S. national team that began in Lincoln in May will come to an end in the Final Six round of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Nanjing, China.
The Americans finished atop the preliminary-round standings with a 13-2 record over five grueling weeks. The team competed in five different countries and on three continents.
The Americans will play Serbia and Turkey in pool play this week, with the top two teams in the two pools advancing to the semifinals.
Then the Americans have a more important tournament, the World Championships, in October.
Robinson is happy to be back after taking most of 2017 off from the national team. Several of the players took time off one year after the Olympics, and Robinson also had a conflict when her sister got married.
She's been with the national team since 2014, shortly after she earned first-team All-America honors and was the Big Ten Conference player of the year during her one season at Nebraska in 2013.
In her first season with the U.S. national team, Robinson was chosen for the World Championship team. She made four starts in the tournament and averaged 3.05 points and 1.85 digs per set as the Americans won their first-ever world title.
While in Lincoln last month, Robinson said she was thrilled to be back playing with the national team.
“I love being around these girls and I love being a part of this program, so for me, it’s pure joy to be out there,” she said.
Robinson was playing outside hitter to begin the Nations League, but then was shifted to libero after ex-Husker Justine Wong-Orantes had a rough match, and Robinson stayed there.
Robinson has averaged 1.88 digs per set to rank fourth in the tournament as best digger. She ranked third as best receiver with a 19.67 efficiency percent, handling 239 receptions, with 63 excellent passes.
She entered the national team system at a good time, allowing her to gain experience and have time to earn a spot on the 2016 Olympic team in her first attempt. For the Americans’ bronze medal team, she was a key reserve in the back row, with some time spent playing outside hitter, scoring 30 points.
Robinson has told the story of how she so badly wanted to get to the Olympics that she’d compete in table tennis if that was the sport that could get her there. She also considered beach volleyball.
Being at the 2016 Olympics was everything she thought it would be.
“It’s kind of indescribable to dream of that moment, and then to finally be there,” Robinson said. “And then once the tournament starts, it’s kind of like a regular tournament. But to represent your country at the highest level is hard to put that into words, I think. And I think it kept me wanting more.”
What Robinson remembers most from the Rio Olympics was the opening ceremony.
“It’s just every single person from around the world walking in at the same time, and all of us feeling the exact same thing and all of us knowing we had reached the pinnacle of our sports,” Robinson said. “So there is a feeling of unity there, I think, and you don’t really find that with everything going on in the world.”
Robinson was a late arrival to U.S. practices in May because of a successful pro season. She plays for VakiBank Sports Club in Istanbul, Turkey, and the team won the European Champions League and the Turkish League championship.
Last fall, Robinson got engaged to Brian Cook. He played college volleyball at Stanford, and they met while they were each playing professionally in Italy.
Cook is the nephew of Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook, but it wasn’t until they’d known each other for a while that they realized their mutual connection to John Cook.
“One time we were talking about volleyball and where I went to school, and stuff like that, and he’s like, ‘Yeah, my uncle … and I was like, ‘Wait, what? Your uncle. My coach.’”
Brian Cook is recovering from an injury now, but plans to resume playing pro beach volleyball.
Robinson studied broadcast journalism while at UNL, and is putting her skills to use during the six-week tournament. She’d made several videos giving fans a behind-the-scenes look as the national team travels the world. She also has a website — www.nomandplay.com — where she shares her love of travel and food.