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Bonsall native Lloyd makes USA Olympic Team

Imagine dreaming of something spectacular as a young child, and then working non-stop to achieve that goal despite physical and emotional setbacks. Imagine the feeling when all the hard work results in the dream becoming a reality.

Carli Lloyd, a native of Bonsall and a 2007 Fallbrook High School graduate, doesn't have to imagine. She's living her dream after being named to the U.S. Olympic women's volleyball team that will compete in Rio next month.

"A lot of joy," said Lloyd of her initial feelings after receiving official word from USA Volleyball on July 11 that she had made the team. "It is a surreal experience just because it’s something you dream about."

Lloyd said her feelings intensified as the news sunk in.

"You train hard and hopefully one day you get there," said Lloyd. "For it to happen, the chances are really, really low, so the last few days have been really emotional. I cry a lot without really having any reason to. I get the chills a lot, which is something pretty incredible. It’s just really a joyous feeling."

Lloyd said her tears are tears of happiness.

"There’s a feeling of being so happy that the work that I’ve done has got me to this point," said Lloyd, an outstanding setter.

Lloyd began playing volleyball at age 11 and after starring at Fallbrook High, she did the same at the University of California, Berkeley, where she majored in social welfare. In 2010, Lloyd became the first Cal Golden Bear to earn honors as the American Volleyball Coaches Association national player of the year.

Lloyd led Cal to its first Pac-10 (now the Pac-12) championship in 2010 as well as to the national championship match, which was won by Penn State. The durable Lloyd played in all 34 of Cal's matches in 2010 and in 117 of the Bears' 118 games.

Lloyd, who joined USA Volleyball in 2011, has spent the majority of the last four years in Italy, where she plays professional volleyball in the prestigious Champions League. Following the Olympics in Rio, she'll rejoin her professional club, Pomi, in Casalmaggiore (northeast Italy) in September.

Lloyd's Olympic dreams and volleyball career hit a major road block in late 2012 when she suffered a pair of stress fractures in her shins. The injuries required Lloyd to miss eight months of competition and caused mental angst.

It was the first major hurdle in an amazing athletic career and it shook Lloyd, who says she was "depressed" and in a "really bad place" over not being able to compete. Ultimately, Lloyd won her battle with depression and is a stronger person today because of it.

“That part of this journey was really, really important for my mental growth," said Lloyd. "I just know that I’ve been through a lot the last five years and that was a huge, huge obstacle for me, but it led to a lot of growth. I know that where I am right now, a huge part of that is that time period.”

Lloyd has had no major injuries since getting over the shin problems and said she is very happy with the way she is feeling physically heading to Rio.

"I’m great now," said Lloyd. "Perfect. I mean as perfect as I can be. Aches and pains are always there, but I’m really healthy.”

Lloyd and her teammates have one goal – to become the first U.S. women's indoor volleyball squad to win an Olympic gold medal. The U.S. women's team has been the runner-up, or silver medalist, three times – in 1984 (lost to China), 2008 (Brazil) and 2012 (Brazil).

"It would be an incredible, incredible thing to make history with this group of girls," said Lloyd. “Our motto is ‘All In.’ What that means to us is we are exactly what that saying says – all in. We’re doing everything we can to make this program the best it can be.

"In my life, I’m obviously striving to be the best person I can be," continued Lloyd. "I think there is always room for growth. The track we're on is to make everyone feel that they can be themselves, and to bring out the best of them on and off the court, and to challenge them. I think we do that for each other every day. It’s just a really great program to be a part of."

The U.S. women will open Olympic play Aug. 6 against Puerto Rico and Lloyd's rooting section will consist of her mother, Cindy Lloyd; her uncle, Galen Tomlinson; her sister, Coral Lloyd; her brother, Doug Lloyd, and her cousin, Kourtney Lucy.

Tomlinson, who was Turbo in the 1980s television series American Gladiator, was Lloyd's mentor and coach in both volleyball and track and field in her youth. Tomlinson moved in with Lloyd shortly after her father passed away when she was age 4 and came to be a father figure for her.

Lloyd, who visits her mom and uncle in Bonsall "as often as I have off," said she isn't overly concerned about what has been one of the major storylines heading into the Rio Games – the Zika virus, which is prompting some athletes to stay away from the games.

"The USOC (United States Olympic Committee) and all the people working around us are doing their best to have us prepared and overly aware of how to be as careful as possible," said Lloyd. "I’m not super concerned about it. Our team is going, we’re going to take our precautions and stay as healthy as we can and control what we can."

Lloyd is looking forward to her Olympic experience.

"We’ve all heard stories about how, obviously, this is the top of the top," said Lloyd. "You’re representing your country walking out onto the court or the field and hearing your national anthem. People say all these things are indescribable. I’m really humbled and honored to be able to actually participate and be one of those athletes. I’m looking forward to all those things."

Editor's note: Next week's edition of the Village News will feature a story on Fallbrook's Richelle Stephens, who has made the U.S. Olympic women's rugby team.

 

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