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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.

Esme Morgan Signs With Washington Spirit

Esme Morgan of England inspects the pitch prior to the UEFA Women's EURO 2025 qualifying match between England and France
The England national will join the Spirit in DC on July 15th. (Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

English defender Esme Morgan has signed with the Washington Spirit, the club announced Thursday. 

Morgan had been with WSL side Manchester City since 2017, with one year remaining on her contract. She’ll now make a move to the NWSL, with City receiving a fee for the move. 

"I wanted to join the Spirit because they have the ambition and tools to be the best team in the NWSL, and trying to achieve that will be a great but enjoyable challenge," Morgan said in a club statement.

"On an individual level too, the opportunity to work under Jonatan [Giráldez], one of the world's best coaches, is really exciting and I look forward to learning from him and pushing myself to become the best player I can be, hopefully helping the team to success."

According to ESPN, Morgan’s lack of playing time under City manager Gareth Taylor played a key role in her decision to leave the league championship runners-up. She’ll join the Spirit in Washington, DC on July 15th, but won’t be able to begin play until August. 

Spirit president Mark Krikorian called Morgan an "exceptional talent" and added that the club is "thrilled" to add her to the roster.

"I think she’s pretty talented," Giraldez told reporters on Friday. "A young player with a great future, but with experience already in a great league and with the national team. She’s been surrounded by great players and also great coaches, so she can give us experience."

Ledecky Goes for 4 at Olympic Swimming Trials

Swimmer katie ledecky swimming at Toyota US Open
Decorated swimmer Katie Ledecky is aiming to make her fourth-straight Olympic squad. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Swimming Trials begin this weekend, running from June 15th through June 23rd in Indianapolis, with Katie Ledecky eyeing her fourth-straight Summer Games.

While traditionally held in Omaha, Indiana's Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, has been fitted with a 50-meter pool to host the meet that will determine the 2024 Paris Olympics roster.

All eyes will be on seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, who will be competing in the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle — all events in which she’s been an Olympic champion. 

Rival Ariarne Titmus had her trials last week, breaking the world record in the 200-meter freestyle. Ledecky’s 200 is intended to qualify her for the Olympic relay. Meanwhile stateside, Katie Grimes stands to be a challenger in the 1500-meter freestyle has already qualified for the Paris Olympics in the 10km open water event.

Other competitors of note include 47-year-old Gabrielle Rose, who stands to become the oldest US Swimming Olympic qualifier in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke.

Additionally, Kate Douglass — an NCAA and World Champion — is a favorite to make her first Olympic team in the 200-meter IM and 200-meter breaststroke. Simone Manuel, an Olympic champion in the 100-meter freestyle, is also looking to make her third-straight Olympics.

Where to watch: The Trials will be streaming all week on Peacock, with later qualifying heats airing live on USA Network and event finals airing in primetime on NBC.

Orlando and Kansas City Shoot for 13 in NWSL Weekend Action

NWSL's T. Chawinga #6 of the Kansas City Current passes the ball during the first half of their game against the Utah Royals FC
The Kansas City Current hopes to extend its NWSL unbeaten streak to 13 with a win over Chicago. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

The 13th match weekend is fast approaching in the NWSL, with two season-long unbeaten streaks on the line.

League-leaders Kansas City and Orlando will attempt to survive the weekend with their unbeaten runs intact, as the Current host Chicago on Friday and the Pride travel to North Carolina for Saturday's match.

But while Kansas City and Orlando have been the gold standard this year, they're still a number of wins away from tying Washington's record for longest unbeaten streak in a single NWSL season. In 2021, the Spirit went 20 games without a loss en route to the club's first NWSL championship.

Both Gotham and Louisville are carrying momentum into their matchup on Saturday. Louisville is unbeaten in three games, and they’re looking to finally leapfrog Chicago and claim sixth place in the league standings. Gotham, on a seven-game unbeaten run, is into fifth place.

Portland and Seattle will face off in the Cascadia Clash this weekend, with Golden Boot contender Sophia Smith absent, as the decorated forward was shown a red card last weekend for time-wasting on the bench.

The Reign could use a win against their long-time rivals, as a difficult start has 13th-place Seattle registering only two wins amid nine losses so far this season.

Elsewhere in the league, 2024 expansion teams Bay FC and Utah meet for the first time this weekend, as both look to rise from the bottom half of the standings. And Washington will ride a four-game winning streak into Saturday's game against a San Diego side that's earned two hard-fought draws in recent weeks.

Watch more: "Sophia Smith is INNOCENT!" on The Late Sub with Claire Watkins

WNBA All-Star Voting Starts on June 13th

Phoenix Mercury mascot Scorch waving a 2024 WNBA All-Star flag at a 2023 home game.
Phoenix Mercury will host the 20th-annual All-Star Game on July 20th, 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Voting for the 2024 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game opened at 2 PM ET today and runs through June 29th.

All active WNBA players are eligible to make the All-Star Game, set for July 20th in Phoenix. Unlike previous formats that featured two voted-in All-Star squads, this year’s contest pits a single All-Star team against the already-decided Olympic-bound USA Women’s National Team.

Fans can submit a daily ballot nominating up to 10 athletes via WNBA.com or the WNBA App.

Fan-submitted ballots account for 50% of vote, with the other 50% split equally between current WNBA players and members of the media. The top 10 athletes will automatically make the All-Star Game, with league coaches then voting from a pool of the next 36 to complete Team WNBA’s 12-player roster. The final lineup will be announced on July 2nd.

This year's All-Star Game format presents an opportunity for fans to vote for players they might consider Olympic snubs. Indiana rookie Caitlin Clark and Dallas’s Arike Ogunbawole seem like shoo-ins given the discussion surrounding their Olympic omissions, while Connecticut stars Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner are also expected to snag All-Star nods.

And after a career-high 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in last night’s 83-75 loss to the Sun, Chicago rookie Angel Reese could also secure a spot.

Regardless, it won't necessarily be smooth sailing for Team USA, as history has tended to favor the underdog. 

The first USA vs. All-Stars matchup took place in 2021, with the league’s squad humbling the Tokyo Olympians 93-85. With 26 points, Ogunbawole was named All-Star Game MVP after barely missing the Olympic cut. Could she and Clark turn the tables on Team USA this year?

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" by Expert Adjacent

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