VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Carli Lloyd had a ball Sunday, kicking it past Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori three times at B.C. Place and then receiving a special one herself -- the Golden Ball.
Her performance in the knockout games of the Women's World Cup was deserving of high honors as she connected for at least a goal in each one.
She certainly saved her best for last, striking for a hat trick in the 5-2 victory over Japan. Lloyd became the first women's player to register a hat trick in a World Cup final, accomplishing the feat during a 13-minute span in the opening 16 minutes as the Americans coasted to a 4-0 lead.
"It has been a long journey for my career," Lloyd said. "I have dedicated my life to all this. Everything comes second. I wouldn't have it any other way."
Lloyd said she dreamed about scoring four goals in the final. "I just completely zoned out," she said. "I dreamed and visualized playing in a World Cup final. I dreamed and visualized scoring four goals . . . If your mental state isn't good enough, you can't bring yourself to bigger and better things. I was on a mission today."
Unlike some of her teammates who had friends and family attend the tournament, Lloyd told hers to stay away. That included her fiance.
"Not having anyone here to focus on my job and help the team win has been a main factor," Lloyd said.
Regardless what she does the rest of her career, the 32-year-old has etched her name into international soccer history. She already had, connecting twice in consecutive gold-medal wins in 2008 and 2012.
In the 2012 Olympic final in London, the Delran, N.J., native scored two goals in a 2-0 U.S. win over Japan. "She always does things to us," coach Norio Sasaki said. "We are a bit embarrassed. She is an excellent player. I respect her and admire her."