Oct. 4, 2011
By Brian Rice, UTLadyVols.com
Spend a little time around the Lady Vols volleyball team, and chances are you'll start to see two Kelsey Robinsons. There aren't physically two of them - that's a thought that send chills down the spines of coaches around the SEC.
But the on- and off-court personalities of the sophomore outside hitter are quite different.
On the court, it's easy to see that Robinson is one of the toughest competitors on either side, a personality that her teammates describe in just one word: swagger. Powerful balls hit down the line, authoritative fist pumps after points, and an intimidating serve that begins with the ball extended in front of her and pointing toward the opponents' end all underscore Robinson's on-court intensity.
Off the court, her teammates unanimously voted her "most likely to pull a prank" and "funniest" in a preseason media day poll. Robinson says the contrast between her two sides is rooted in the same basic plan: To have fun.
"I just like to have a good time," Robinson said. "Off the court, my personality comes out. I like to make everyone laugh and I think that makes for really good team chemistry. But on the court, I'm completely different. It's like two personalities. I'm serious, ready to play."
So far in 2011, Robinson leads the Lady Vols and the SEC with 279 kills, more than twice as many as her nearest teammate. She also leads the conference with 29 aces. She was named to the all-tournament team in all three of UT's early season tournaments and won tournament MVP honors at the Virginia Tech Invitational and the Comcast Lady Vol Classic.
In the Illinois State Farm Classic, Robinson had 20-plus kills in each of the three matches. Her career-high 28 kills in a win over Dayton helped her earn SEC Player of the Week.
In the Lady Vols' road victory over No. 6 Florida, Robinson had 17 kills, a team-high 15 digs and a pair of aces, including one during a 6-0 run in the fifth set that turned a three-point deficit into a three-point lead.
For Robinson, the stats and the wins that follow are just a byproduct of her competitive nature.
"Anybody that plays with me always tells me that I'm the most competitive player they've been on the court with," Robinson said. "I pride myself on being the most competitive person out there. I don't like to lose. Whether it's volleyball, `Monopoly,' it doesn't matter. I want to win."
With senior captain and preseason All-SEC outside hitter Kayla Jeter out for the season with a torn ACL, teammates looked to Robinson for leadership, not just on the stat sheet but in the locker room as well. Some sophomores might not be ready to lead, but Robinson was ready to embrace it.
"I've had a lot of experience being the youngest player on top teams," she said. "By following players that have been leaders for me, I've grown in that role, and I'm not afraid to say something to the other players and take charge on the court. When you're a six-rotation player and you touch the ball most out of anyone, you have to be that player. You have to be vocal. I play vocal."