(California Golden Blogs Hall of Fame, Class of 2013 inductee)
Sport: Women's volleyball
Twitter: N/A (I can't find our Carli Lloyd on the social media, unlike the soccer version)
Birthday: August 6th, 1989 (age 27 by the Rio Olympics)
Hometown: Bonsall, California
Cal affiliation: California Golden Bears alum (Social Welfare with an emphasis on education '10)
Years at Cal: 2007-2010
Olympic appearances: 2016 is Carli Lloyd's 1st appearance in the Olympic games
Regular readers know that Cal Volleyball is up there in a tie with Cal Football as my favorite Cal sports behind Men's Basketball. The best Cal Volleyball player to suit up for the Bears since I started to follow the team in 2000? That has got to be Carli Lloyd, who will finally get her very well deserved chance to shine on the International stage in Rio.
Carli Lloyd led Cal Volleyball to the program best 4 year run that includes two Final Four, including one National Championship match, and two more Elite 8 appearances. The setter was one of the most prolific athlete in Cal history, earning the starting setter job her freshman year and lead the team to the cusp of the program's first National Title (if we could have only somehow got past the Penn State Nittany Lions).
Besides her ability to consistently set up her teammates, Carli also has the size and skill to be a formidable blocker at the net and to hit some overhead shots for kills.
From her CalBears.com Bio:
Finished her SENIOR season as one of the most prolific student-athletes to ever suit up for the Bears...AVCA National Player of the Year, first-team All-American, named to the AVCA All-Pacific Region team...placed on the NCAA Division I All-Championship Team and heralded as the Seattle Regional MVP...one of 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award and named to the Pac-10 All-Conference Team and to the Pac-10 All-Academic Second Team...three-time Cal Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week and called the Oct. 26 player of the week for Sports Imports/AVCA And Pac-10 Conference...made the Cal Molten Classic and Hilton Garden Inn Classic all-tourney squads...Cal's only All-American setter...ended her senior season second on the school's all-time assists list ladder with 5,697, a mark that is also good for sixth all-time in the Pac-10...competed her career with 398 blocks and a .277 hitting percentage, both placing her fifth all-time at Cal...only setting among the top 10 on either of those lists...just the third setter in all of Cal history to log more than 1,000 digs in her career...her 1,384 assists in 2010 was also the eighth highest mark in program history and gave her four of the top nine single seasons for assists at Cal.
For all of her individual success, Carli Lloyd's biggest accomplishment at Cal has got to be measured by the team success.
From Carli's official Team USA Bio, we get the following gem:
Happiest moment in her volleyball life was "beating University of Southern California to advance to the 2010 NCAA Division I Women's National Championship match."
Interestingly, it was Carli's freshman season that saw her post the program's 2nd best assists number - 1550 on that season. That year also saw the Golden Bears reach their first Final Four, although the Bears lost to eventual champs Penn State in the semifinals. The Bears were eliminated by Penn State in the Elite 8 stage in 2008 and 2009 before losing to Penn State in the championship game in 2010 in 4 sets.
Cal Volleyball has yet to duplicate the same success or better since Carli Lloyd graduated.
Making it to the Olympics had always been a stated goal of Carli Lloyd, who was named as an alternate for the 2012 London games (U.S.A. won the silver, Lloyd didn't get a medal though). Lloyd had plenty of experiences competing for the U.S., including several stints with the A2 team.
Lloyd was the main setter for the U.S. in the following competitions:
2011 - Pan American Games (Bronze).
2012 - Pan American Cup (Gold).
2015 - USA Volleyball Cup vs China...Pan American Cup (Gold)...Pan American Games (Gold) - Lloyd was the MVP for both of these tournaments.
2016 - FIVB World Grand Prix (Silver).
Apparently Lloyd was injured for a couple of years there, but she has obviously recovered in time to even overtake Alisha Glass (who was the setter for those Penn State teams that were the nemesis of Cal) as the go-to setter for Team U.S.A. over time.
More on Carli and her Rio outlook:
Carli Lloyd is Cal volleyball's first Olympian ever! pic.twitter.com/SywiINZSHL— Cal Volleyball (@CalVolleyball) July 12, 2016
Although Cal Volleyball has had a tough past few seasons, the high expectations on the team was largely due to the recent peak of Cal Volleyball - the two Final Fours and then the No.1 in the nation ranking, from when Carli Lloyd and then Tarah Murray play on the team. After many years of trying, Carli Lloyd becomes the program's very first Olympian in Indoor Volleyball. Cal Volleyball alum Holly McPeak participated in 3 Olympics for Beach Volleyball and have won a Bronze in 2004. Based on the lineup used in the recent FIVB World Grand Prix last month, Carli Lloyd could be the one to lead to the top ranked Team USA in Rio next month, especially after her international success with the U.S. national team in 2015.
From the official CalBears.com press release on Carli making the team:
"We're very excited for Carli," Cal coach Rich Feller said. "It's very well-deserved. She was one of the very top setters on the college level and now is showing she can represent the United States on the highest level."
"I couldn't be more proud of her. She is definitely deserving," said Cal beach volleyball coach Meagan Schmitt, who was Lloyd's teammate all four years at Cal. "Her goal from Day One was to go to the Olympics. It's a huge testament to her as a person and a player."
"Very few players can do what Carli has over the last couple of years: transform her mindset and transform her game," U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. "She has more tools than ever to make us better in myriad ways."
Since graduating from Cal, Lloyd has been playing volleyball professionally in Italy. She played for the following clubs and have won several trophies and individual awards:
Yamamay Busto Arsizio (2011-2013)
Italy Prosecco Doc-Imoco Conegliano (2013-2014)
Azerbaijan Lokomotiv Baku (2014-2015)
Italy Pomì Casalmaggiore (2015-2016)
Carli's father passed away when she was very young. She was raised by her mom and her uncle, Galen Tomlinson, aka Turbo from the original American Gladiators TV show in the 80's. Tomlinson also works as a volleyball trainer (not sure whether that was before or after Carli becomes really involved with volleyball). He did an interview with an Italian website in 2013.
And finally one important question: not having a real professional league, after college the possibility to play volleyball for the best athletes is really low... And here's his answer, really interesting: "There is not a clear process for US athletes to find professional clubs in other countries. It can be difficult for some athletes to find agents, and clubs to play for because there are not a lot of opportunities for the athletes to be seen overseas. Some athletes are contacted after their collegiate career by an agent, others are referred to agents by friends, and still others have to search for a way to get in contact with an agent. Recently a professional league started in the US so this could change over the next few years, but in the past after college athletes had two options if they wanted to continue playing volleyball. One was to tryout for the national team, and the other was to find a club to play for outside of the US. Currently there is a third option for US athletes and that is to play in the Premier Volleyball League. In the past there hasn't been enough support to have a professional league in the US, but we all hope that this one can succeed."
We shall see if the top ranked U.S.A. team can win their first Olympic gold in history. Maybe then, the U.S.A. team can use that momentum to build the professional league in the U.S. and Cal fans will have the opportunities to see Carli Lloyd (and future Golden Bears) play volleyball on U.S. soil after they have graduated.
Best of luck to Carli in Rio and GO BEARS!