Carli Lloyd is now in select company after the former two-time Inquirer South Jersey player of the year from Delran was named U.S. Soccer's Female Athlete of the Year for 2008.

This is the highest honor bestowed by the governing body of U.S. Soccer, and Lloyd joined such luminaries as Mia Hamm, who won the award five times, and three-time winners Michelle Akers, Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach.

"It was a great honor," Lloyd said in a telephone interview. "You see the list of who has gotten it previously, and there were some amazing players who received the award."

And now Lloyd is considered one of those amazing players after enjoying a spectacular 2008 season.

She will always be linked to scoring the winning goal in overtime during a 1-0 victory over Brazil to capture the Olympic gold medal in Beijing.

Amazingly, Lloyd hasn't sat down to watch that game yet.

"I've been so busy that I haven't had the time to watch it," she said. "I watch every game I play in, and it's a great tool to learn."

She has seen some highlights of the game, but vows to watch it in its entirety during the holidays.

While the dramatic goal against Brazil is what most people mention to Lloyd, another underrated statistic is that she played every minute of all six Olympic games for the United States. Playing the midfield, or any position for that matter, takes extreme stamina and only the best conditioned athletes in the world could think of achieving this.

"Even before the Olympics I had self-doubt as to whether I could be able to stay on the field the whole time," she said. "As the Brazil game went on, I felt stronger and stronger each minute."

It showed, and Lloyd said that her success could be attributed to a rededication to conditioning.

"That has always been my downfall, in high school and college [at Rutgers], I wasn't as fit as I could have been," she said. "Scoring that goal [against Brazil] and getting a gold medal and getting stronger as the game went on, it was all an unbelievable feeling."

In 2008, Lloyd had nine goals and nine assists for the national team. One of her biggest goals came in a 1-0 Olympic victory over Japan. That occurred after the U.S. had lost its opening game, 2-0, to Norway.

Lloyd and the U.S. team had a disappointing World Cup the year before, losing to Brazil, 4-0 in the semifinals before capturing the bronze medal with a 4-1 win over Norway.

Lloyd was in and out of the lineup during the World Cup, and it was a frustrating experience.

After the World Cup, coach Greg Ryan was replaced by Pia Sundhage. The coaching change had a dramatic impact on Lloyd's career.

"Pia has allowed me to display what I can bring to this team and that has really helped me," Lloyd said. "She believed in me."

At 26, Lloyd feels she has plenty of soccer left and plans to compete in the 2011 World Cup in Germany and the 2012 Olympics in London.

She is also part of the new Women's Professional Soccer League, which debuts this spring. Lloyd is a member of the Chicago Red Stars.

Before that, there will be more training with the national team, which will compete in the Algarve Cup in Portugal in March.

There's very little down time for Lloyd and the players, but she is having the time of her life. And it's just a guess, but when she finally clears time to view that Olympic final against Brazil, Lloyd is likely to enjoy watching the rerun of her historic performance.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225

or mnarducci@phillynews.com.