Carli Lloyd wins MVP, leads US to gold medal in volleyball at Pan Ams

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BERKELEY, CA-- Carli Lloyd during the Bears' Women's Volleyball PAC-10 win at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, CA.

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Former Cal volleyball superstar Carli Lloyd became the second U.S. athlete with that name to lead her country to glory in international competition, joining the Carli Lloyd who helped the United States become the champion of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The former Bear won MVP of the Pan American Games en route to helping the United States capture a gold medal.

The Cal alumna led the tournament in assists per set with 9.36, including an average of 8.67 per set in the United States’ straight set victory against Brazil in the gold-medal match. Lloyd also got the American team through its tournament with only one loss, which came against the Brazilians in the group stages.

That one loss was not at all Lloyd’s fault, as she excelled in the five-set match. She even managed a strike, which is rare for Lloyd, who generally sets up the ball for others to capitalize on. She had 10 assists per game — a startling number, which was her second best of the tournament.

Her best game, however, came in the semifinals, when the Americans beat the Dominican Republic, 25-17, 22-25, 25-18, 25-22. She had 47 assists in the match — good for an average of 11.75 per set. That’s an astounding number and is the primary reason the United States whizzed past the Dominicans without much trouble.

Lloyd is no stranger to putting up gaudy assist numbers: She left Cal second on the program’s all-time list of assist leaders. This is just one of the many accolades she managed to put up during her career with the Bears, which ended in 2010. That year, she was a first-team All-American and was named the American Volleyball Coaches Association Player of the Year. The alumna was an all-around threat on the volleyball court at UC Berkeley, as she finished her career fifth all-time in blocks and hitting percentage. She also became the third setter in the program’s history to record more than 1,000 digs.

With such an astounding set of skills, it’s not shocking that Lloyd helped guide the United States to a gold medal. In the championship match, she was not going to let her team lose to Brazil again. She was third among Americans in digs with 11 in fixture. Her excellent assist work, however, was what put her team above and beyond. Her 26 assists helped the U.S. team convert on 39.71 percent of its spike opportunities, which is almost 12 percent better than what Brazil could pull off. It’s this disparity, catalyzed largely by Lloyd, that helped Americans record their 25-22, 25-21, 28-26 win. The gold medal is the United States’ first in the event at the Pan Ams since 1967.

If the Cal alumna can keep up this sort of play and keep leading Team USA to first on the international stage, it wouldn’t be surprising to see her name in the headlines more often. This rings especially true as the 2016 Summer Olympics — where Lloyd figures to be a key contributor — draw nearer.

Hooman Yazdanian is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @hoomanyazdanian.