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Carli Lloyd continues to make a name for herself with AU Volleyball

Carli Lloyd prepares to serve during Week 4 of the 2022 Athletes Unlimited season. (Jade Hewitt/Athletes Unlimited)

Carli Lloyd the volleyball player is not Carli Lloyd the soccer player.

They are two of the best to ever do it in their respective sports, and both have won Olympic medals with Team USA, but they have never actually met despite an attempt to get them together at the 2016 Olympics.

That hasn’t stopped the confusion among fans over the years. Lloyd the volleyball player recalls one time a few years back when Lloyd the USWNT forward had a particularly memorable game and she started to receive congratulatory messages.

“I was like, what?” Lloyd tells Just Women’s Sports. “Then I started realizing that they were sending them to Carli Lloyd the soccer player and not me.”

Admittedly, Lloyd does not follow soccer, saying that she’s “terrible” at the sport and doesn’t really understand it. But once she became acquainted with the other Carli Lloyd, a two-time World Cup champion and FIFA Player of the Year award winner, the volleyball setter understood why people wanted to reach out.

“I don’t mind being mixed up with her. I would never take credit for all the things that she’s doing, but like, she’s an amazing athlete,” Lloyd says, adding that she now follows the soccer player on social media.

Another thing the Lloyds have in common is the time they’ve spent traveling the world while at the peak of their sports. Lloyd has made stops in Italy, Brazil, Turkey and Azerbaijan, among other countries, during her 10-year professional volleyball career overseas.

While she personally enjoys going overseas to play, she recognizes that it’s not for everyone. That’s where Athletes Unlimited, the players-led league entering the final week of its second volleyball season, comes in.

“They’re thinking about your mental health, your physical health, your interests outside of the sport,” Lloyd says of AU’s unique approach. “And they’re making it so well-rounded that it allows the athlete to play volleyball, but also pursue other passions at the same time and provide space for you to grow in.”

Lloyd’s activities outside of the sport have included motherhood, after she gave birth to daughter Storm last May. Having her daughter on the sidelines has been a highlight for Lloyd this season, and Athletes Unlimited has made it possible with the progressive pregnancy policy it implemented last year in consultation with the Player Executive Committee.

“I got to play my first match and Storm was there, and it was one of the coolest feelings I’ve ever experienced,” Lloyd says. “Just seeing her there and realizing how far I had come, because I didn’t know for sure if I would play again, and I definitely didn’t know if I’d be playing in the United States.”

Before giving birth, Lloyd knew deep down she wasn’t done with volleyball and continued to train during her pregnancy. Lloyd played beach volleyball until the seven-month mark, and as soon as she was cleared postpartum, she got back to being active.

Now back on the court nine months postpartum, she doesn’t take the opportunity to compete for granted. Entering the final two games of the AU volleyball season, Lloyd is 23rd on the leaderboard with 1,777 points, but third in assists in 344 and 10th in digs with 115.

“Right now, my body feels really good, and I think it’s because of all of the attention I put into it throughout all of those steps — pre-pregnancy, during my pregnancy and postpartum,” says Lloyd, one of many female athletes being more vocal about balancing a professional sports career and motherhood, including Portland Thorns midfielder Crystal Dunn.

“I’m such a huge advocate for women to listen to their bodies and stay active through pregnancy,” Lloyd adds. “It’s motivating, and also I want to tell women that you can do it. It’s totally doable to get back and be even better than before, but it does take a lot of work.”

Emma Hruby is an associate editor at Just Women’s Sports.