Patti Wilson was there from the start.
The Delran native, who now makes her home in Wildwood Crest, is the aunt of FIFA World Cup soccer sensation and renowned female athlete role model Carli Lloyd. Lloyd, who turned 33 July 16, is the oldest daughter of Wilson’s sister.
“Carli was a standout player at a very young age,” said Wilson, who shares her Crest home with spouse, Wayne. “Our Delran residence was across from the soccer field and we saw her practicing day after day, year after year. She’d bring a bag of soccer balls all by herself and she’d just keep winging them at the net.”
Wilson said Lloyd even taught the family dog how to play goalie. “Sadie would get mad when Carli would get the ball past her,” said Wilson. “I remember Wayne coming from work and telling me he saw Carli over at the field again. When she was 10 he told her she would end up on a Wheaties box someday. And she has surpassed that!”
Lloyd’s status as a role model for young women is easy to understand. She went from a 26-goal, team captain, 18-3 senior season at Delran to a four-time All Big East selection at Rutgers University from 2001 to 2004.
In 2007 she was named Algarve Cup MVP and was top goal scorer. She was cited as the country’s Soccer Player of the Year in 2008.
The N.J. Sportswriters Association recognized Lloyd as 2012 Woman of the Year as did Glamour magazine. She was inducted into the N.J. Youth Soccer Hall of Fame and qualified for the “short list” for 2012 FIFA World
Player of the Year. Rutgers honored the midfielder with induction into the Scarlet Knight Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2013.
This magical year of 2015 saw Lloyd garner the World Cup’s prestigious Golden Ball and Silver Boot awards, respectively, as the U.S. Women captured the Cup on the strength of Lloyd’s three first-half goals in the title match versus Japan.
She plays professionally in the National Women’s Soccer League for the Houston Day and for the U.S. Women’s National Team. The 5-7 Lloyd scored the gold-medal, game-winning goals in the 2008 and 2012 summer Olympics, respectively.
She has represented the United States at three FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments including 2007 when she helped win the bronze. In 2011 she helped the squad capture World Cup silver and this year she lead the U.S. women to their third World Cup title.
“She is a player other women can look up to because she truly is the girl next door who has overcome challenges and struggles because nothing was handed to her,” said Wilson. “Carli speaks so eloquently of her journey without notes. It’s from the heart with all eyes on her. She doesn’t realize the awe most people have when they see her.”
Lloyd always looked up to Wilson’s daughter, Jaime, who is five years older. To this day Lloyd wears her cousin’s number 10. Jaime was a standout for Delran soccer and softball and remains the school record holder with a .540 batting average as she led the Bears to a state championship in her senior season. She earned an athletic scholarship to Philadelphia University and went on to achieve a master’s degree.
Wilson’s son, Adam, graduated from Delran and Stockton University. Jaime, Adam, and Carli’s lifelong twin-sister friends, Karen Sweet Zarrella and Kathy Sweet, remain close.
Wilson, her children and Zarrella surprised Lloyd by making the trek to Vancouver to witness the World Cup Championship in person.
“We all had to be there,” said Wilson. “We planned the trip and in a few days we were off to Canada. Marching in the sea of red, white and blue with tens of thousands of fans was incredible. We felt like we were in the U.S. I was there to see my niece’s dream come true. It was so surreal for us, especially when she scored three goals in 16 minutes.”
Wilson said Lloyd credits her ascension in the competitive sport of soccer to her now 12-year affiliation with Burlington County’s Universal Soccer Academy and its owner/trainer, James Galanis.
“It seemed as though she was ready to quit when she was 21 and then James came along and volunteered his services,” said Wilson. “He saw her capability and knew she could become a world-class soccer player with a little tweaking. He has stayed with her for 12 years and helped bring her to the pinnacle of her career. His training is for physical and mental aspects of the game. God has blessed her with such talent and she has run with it.”
Wilson said the families vacation together but that doesn’t curtail Lloyd’s workouts. “She never stops training,” said Wilson. “Even when she is visiting us she runs the beach and boardwalk.”
Lloyd shares her Mount Laurel home with fiancé Brian Hollins, but she’s often on the road with her professional and national soccer team along with other commitments.
“Traveling is hard and she does it frequently,” said Wilson. “She treasures the few days she has to spend at home before flying off to Houston with her professional team or to Los Angeles for the U.S.A. National Team.”
Wilson says Lloyd remains committed to training and continuing her soccer career.
“She was more determined than ever after that loss to Japan four years ago,” said Wilson. “It was a tough loss but it made her work that much more. After this year’s World Cup victory I asked her if she realized what she’d just accomplished for her legacy. She said her legacy will be in four years after another World Cup. But it’s not just soccer that makes Carli so special. My niece is a loving, caring, strong person who has so much to share.”
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