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Rutgers alumna Hall of Famer Carli Lloyd shares life journey

<p>Courtesy of United States Soccer Federation | Carli Lloyd, a 2004 Rutgers-New Brunswick graduate, plays against Japan's Saki Kumagai on July 5 for the FIFA Women's World Cup final in Vancouver, Canada. </p>

Courtesy of United States Soccer Federation | Carli Lloyd, a 2004 Rutgers-New Brunswick graduate, plays against Japan's Saki Kumagai on July 5 for the FIFA Women's World Cup final in Vancouver, Canada. 

Carli Lloyd is on a mission to become the world's best soccer player.

And after the July 5 FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Vancouver, Canada, the center midfielder proved that she’s been putting in the work — both physically and mentally — to achieve that goal.

“I got a taste of what I can become and what I can do, and I know there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” she said. “I know that I’ve set the bar high and people ask me, ‘How can you top this? …' I know that I can top this.”

Lloyd, who graduated from Rutgers in 2004, scored three goals in the first 16 minutes of the Women's World Cup— the earliest hat trick in its history, according to CNN.com.

But like most success stories, the path to Lloyd’s performance against Japan earlier this month has not always been one of sheer and unwavering success.

Lloyd said she was shocked when she scored the winning goal during overtime in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “I still wasn’t believing in myself that I could have an impact on the team,” she said.

When the London 2012 games came around, Lloyd doubted she would be on the field, as she was benched shortly before the tournament.

“I was disappointed, but I knew I had to be ready and focused because if called upon, I would have to prove everyone wrong,” she said.

So when she got the opportunity to play against Japan in the Olympic Games three years ago, she did just that, and scored the two goals that brought the U.S. Women’s National Team the gold.

Ever since that game three years ago, Lloyd has been playing well, which gave her confidence going into this World Cup. She also credited her trainer, James Galanis, with maintaining her belief in herself by reminding her to get out on the field and “play with freedom and with no fear of mistakes.”

Before scoring her way into the spotlight, Lloyd played on the Rutgers fields for four years — a time when she was able to “play with freedom.”

“When I was at Rutgers, I just kind of floated around on the field … I didn't worry about making mistakes, I was given the freedom from Glenn to be able to express myself and attack and do all of that.”

When deciding between Rutgers and West Virginia, Lloyd chose Rutgers to help put the soccer program on the map, because it was close to home and because of the education.

“Rutgers is a really hard school academically ... I'm happy to say that I've earned my degree there and graduated," she said. 

She said her favorite memory as a Scarlet Knight was Beating Notre Dame, Santa Clara and making it to the Sweet 16 tournament during her first year of college, she said.

As a New Jersey native, Lloyd also chose Rutgers because it was close enough that her family and friends to come watch her play, which is something she no longer allows.

Galanis has instilled in Lloyd the value of having no distractions, which is why even her fiancé, Brian Hollins, did not make the trip to Vancouver to witness Lloyd’s success against Japan.

Focus is something Lloyd’s been working on for a while. She met Galanis in 2003, while on winter break from college. She and Brian were planning a ski trip when Galanis gave her a call to come to the field so he could evaluate her.

“I remember him telling me that I need to put soccer first and everything else needs to come second, and I can’t do anything that is going to potentially hurt me,” she said.

Over the years, the focus and determination to be the best has led Lloyd to “miss out on everything — birthdays, weddings, even, unfortunately, funerals. I mean, there’s so many things that we miss and have to sacrifice, but that's what it takes in order to be at the top.”

That value of focus has also led Lloyd to understand the importance of visualization.

“I would lie my head down on my bed and close my eyes or stare at the wall for 10 minutes at a time and maybe do it four or five times throughout the day, and I’ve continued to do it up until this point and I’ll continue to do it for the rest of my career," she said. 

The rest of her soccer career will carry her through the next five years, but after that she may want to go around speaking and inspiring others with her story.

And she’s already an inspiration to many. Lloyd’s favorite messages since the World Cup win have been from parents telling her that their kids are saying that if they work “just as hard as Carli,” they too can reach the top.

“I'm on a mission of wanting to become the best ever … If you just chip away little by little each day, month by month, year by year and you just keep going and keep working hard until eventually you just reach that point,” Lloyd said.

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