TORONTO -- The name Carli Lloyd is becoming synonymous with Team USA these days.
Less than a month after the soccer star marched the U.S. women’s national team to the FIFA Women’s World Cup title last month, the volleyball setter by the same name etched her name into Team USA history as well after leading the U.S. women to the gold medal with a 3-0 win over Brazil in the Pan American Games gold-medal game on Saturday, when she was also named tournament MVP.
The win was the U.S. women’s volleyball team’s first Pan Am Games gold medal in 48 years.
Volleyball’s Lloyd says she can’t escape the parallels these days, largely due to the attention her soccer counterpart received after scoring a World Cup-high six goals en route to being named the event’s top player.
“People always talk about her when they hear my name, so I feel like she’s in my daily life,” Lloyd said. “You spell it the same, and it’s like yeah, but I don’t know her at all. I’ve watched her success and she is such a baller. I’m awful at soccer. I don’t really even understand the sport that well. But I watch her fire and it’s cool.”
Lloyd said she first took notice following the U.S. women’s soccer team that won gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games. She received Facebook messages from fans offering congratulations.
She hasn’t met soccer’s Lloyd, but hopes to soon.
“It’d be interesting to hear her side, if people ever mixed her up – probably not because I’m not as big time as her,” said Lloyd, who is an acquaintance of soccer forward Alex Morgan through their academic tenures at Cal-Berkeley. “But I thought about it. I just don’t know how I would actually go about it.”
On Saturday, Lloyd led the women to a thrilling 25-22, 25-21, 28-26 win over a Brazil team in front of a deafening crowd at the Toronto Exhibition Centre.
Despite the 3-0 set sweep, the score wasn’t indicative of just how close the match was – particularly in light of Brazil’s 3-2 win over the U.S. in pool play on Monday.
“The way we responded and the adjustments we made after losing such a close match to them the first time we played them in the tournament – I thought it was a hard-fought battle,” coach Dan Fisher said. “There was great rallies on both sides.”
Team USA trailed by as many as eight points in the third set before mounting a comeback that forced the match into extra points. Despite a two-set lead, there was an urgency to hammer in the final nail.
“I actually looked over at Carli when we were sitting on the bench and we were down by like eight points and I said: ‘I still feel really good about this game,’” Natalie Hagglund said. “I felt like our energy was really high. We were confident, and we knew that we could beat them.”
“Our passing broke down a little bit so we just needed to settle in our reception, which we did,” Fisher said. “And also, we changed our serving strategy just a little bit and I think we made them uncomfortable.”
The win was the first for Team USA since 1967. Since then, the U.S. women had won two silver medals and five bronzes.
Saturday’s win also came on the same day as a different U.S. women’s team beat a different Brazilian team to win the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals, the sport’s most prestigious tournament outside of the Olympics.
“This is just a representation of Team USA,” Lloyd said. “This was a group effort. We played some really good volleyball this tournament. I’m so thankful for this team, the staff that we had, the support that we had.”