The USA Volleyball Cup pits the U.S. national team against Brazil in Anaheim for matches Sunday, August 27, and Tuesday, August 29. The women are coming off a fifth-place finish in the FIVB World Grand Prix and are preparing for the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup Sept. 5-10 in Japan.
Kelsey Robinson, a product of suburban Chicago who finished her college career at Nebraska, was a member of the 2016 Olympic team that won the bronze medal. After the Olympics, she played professionally in Beijing, China for BAIC Motor and then in Conegliano, Italy, for Imoco Volley. She has been in the USA gym all summer.
The 6-foot-2 outsider hitter/DS was not, however, included on the team rosters for the Grand Prix or Grand Champions Cup because she has to be home September 9 for her sister’s wedding, which falls right in the middle of the latter competition.
Robinson is also an experienced, passionate traveler who loves to eat and cook with an informative and entertaining travel-food website. In this entry for VolleyballMag.com, she gives an update on the USA women’s team.
By Kelsey Robinson for VolleyballMag.com
We’re coming home to play and it feels so good.
While playing professionally overseas grants us the opportunity to come away with amazing experiences, both on and off the court, nothing feels as good as walking into the USA gym and seeing your second family. The sacrifices made by each individual to commit themselves to the program is what bonds us for life. After coming up just short of our goals at the 2016 Olympics, we are back with an even greater sense of purpose as we get ready for Tokyo in 2020.
This summer has been one of new faces getting their first taste of what it means to be in the USA gym, as well as the veterans getting some rest and refreshed legs, plus an atmosphere of learning and growing.
While one group comprised of mostly rookies competed and represented USA at Grand Prix, many of the veterans from 2016 remained at home taking some time for rest and building strength to head into another four year Olympic cycle. The team qualified for finals week of Grand Prix after winning six of their nine matches in the weeks prior.
After losing close games to both Serbia and Italy, finals week didn’t go how we would have hoped to finish. As Karch would say, we faced adversity both on and off the court and worked hard to find solutions to be better. There were valuable experiences and lessons. Many of those lessons have already been applied into our Grand Champions Cup training block as we get ready for going to Tokyo in September. One of the biggest takeaways from Grand Prix is how to have a growth mindset and still maintain a sense of urgency. How do we stay patient, knowing that it still a learning process with mistakes along the way, yet still continue to compete at the highest level?
Our training began this past week and it has been nothing short of intense.
The emphasis to be better out of the back row, both offensively and defensively, has been a continued theme in practices. We’ve made it a focus to maintain our strength as a serving and passing unit and to run our offense with speed.
We have nine days to be our best team heading into this last tournament of the summer. The combination of both old and young has created a competitive and passionate environment. Newcomers like Annie Drews have had to adapt and adjust in a short amount of time. Drews spoke about her first few months in the gym.
“The process has been much less intimidating and more growth focused than I imagined,” she said, “because everyone has the mindset of doing what it takes to help USA take their best roster and win.”
Veterans such as Rachel Adams and Jordan Larson are back on the court and training full time. The opportunity for many of the veterans to get much needed rest has paid off. Players have added inches to their jump and gained valuable strength bases.
“It’s been a short time together,” Adams said, “and we’re making a lot of great strides as a group and everyone is putting in the effort each and everyday to get better individually, so that we can be our strongest as a whole for grand champions cup.”
With the two exhibition matches against Brazil coming up Sunday and Tuesday, the energy in the gym is at another level. Brazil, the No. 4 team in the World, has a long time rivalry with No. 2 USA. While we will face off here in the States, there is the possibility to face them yet again at Grand Champions Cup.
The most exciting aspect of the Cup is that it is the “best of the best.”
The USA will face the top teams in the world. Four of the five Continental Confederations will compete along with a wild card. Japan, the host country, is where volleyball was first played in the Olympics. The country and the fans there continue to show their love for the sport. They will be the host for World Cup, World Championships, and the Olympics in the next three years.
Our matches with Brazil are at the Anaheim Convention Center Arena. You can also follow along and support us by clicking here during Grand Champions.
Editor’s note: Kelsey’s website, nomandplay, is currently being revamped but will up and running again by mid-September. She’ll be writing more us in the future about volleyball, food and travel.
Originally, my site was created to share with people my travel adventures while playing overseas. It gives readers the chance to get a local’s perspective of different cities or how to travel to a city with only 24-48 hours to spend.
I’ve always been into cooking and creating recipes for my nutrition and performance. After sharing recipes and food posts on Instagram and other social medias, I’ve received a lot of feedback wanting more information on how to create these meals. People really have shared their interests, I think, especially because it’s coming from an athlete’s perspective.
These are real foods that take little time to make and help me to perform at a high level. I decided to incorporate this into my website and to have it be a place where people can see not only travel, but also recipes and nutrition. There will also be a lifestyle portion and other points of interest.