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U.S. women's volleyball team ready for final versus Brazil

Carli Lloyd and the U.S. women's volleyball team are looking to win their first Pam Am Games gold since 1967. AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

TORONTO -- Facing another imposing championship match against one of the best teams in the world, the United States women will have Carli Lloyd available Saturday night. OK, not that Carli Lloyd. This Carli Lloyd doesn't kick the ball with her feet -- she smacks it with her hands. Although she says people have been confused recently when they see this Lloyd away from the volleyball court.

"It's funny," Lloyd said Thursday after the U.S. women's volleyball team beat the Dominican Republic 3-1 to advance to the gold-medal match at the Pan Am Games. "I get a lot of comments whenever they see my ID or they ask my name and they hear 'Carli.' They're like: 'You're the soccer player?' They don't even understand it. I cannot play soccer.

"It would be cool to meet her though."

Yes, it would be cool to meet the United States' MVP from the Women's World Cup, but this Lloyd's teammates are perfectly content playing everyday with the Lloyd, who is a setter for the U.S.

"Our Carli Lloyd is the Carli Lloyd on our team," said Nicole Fawcett, who scored a team-high 16 points in the team's semifinal victory against the Dominican Republic. "We're like, 'She has a name just like you, Carli.' I think there must be a trend in the name there that they succeed quite well."

The United States, which won its first world championship in women's volleyball last year, is using split squads to play both here as well as the World Grand Prix being played concurrently in Omaha, Neb. "Everyone there is like, 'We're in America this week,' but we're here in Toronto and having a phenomenal time," Fawcett said.

"It's awesome here at the Pan Am Games," U.S. outside hitter Krista Vansant said. "The athletes' village is great, the dorms are really nice. We get food 24/7, whenever we want it, which is great when we end matches at 12:30 at night and we need some dinner."

Vansant, who recently graduated from the University of Washington, was named the best collegiate volleyball player the past two years. She and Fawcett are leading the U.S. in scoring here.

"Krista is having quite an offensive tournament, so she's very important," U.S. coach Dan Fisher said. "She hasn't had a bad game yet so we're going to need her best against Brazil."

That they will. The U.S. lost against Brazil in a tight, five-set match in pool play. The Americans will also have to compete with the crowd -- the arena was packed with vocal Brazilian fans for the Brazil-Puerto Rico semifinal match Thursday.

"We're not going to have to be perfect, but we have to be good after good after good," Vansant said. "We have to limit their runs. They're going to side-out, but we're going to have to side-out right back at them. We have a good chance against them. It's hard to beat a team twice, so hopefully it will be hard for them to beat us twice."

The U.S. women have not won gold at the Pan Am Games since 1967. The bigger goal, though, is to win at next summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The U.S. women have never won a gold medal in Olympic volleyball -- it has three silvers -- but Fisher said the team is building well.

"I think the depth is stronger and there are new, younger players breaking in," he said. "So I think our talent is even better than a year ago when the U.S. won the world championship. We're on a good path."

And Saturday's gold-medal match against Brazil will be a good warm-up for Rio.

"It will be Brazil in Brazil next year," Fisher said, "so obviously it will be a huge challenge."