Four years ago, Kathy Sweet had just started a new job, and her coworkers didn't quite understand all the commotion coming from her desk. But, while Sweet was trying to contain her emotions in front of her new colleagues, she had bigger things on her mind. It was the summer of 2008, and one of her closest friends and fellow Delran High graduate, Carli Lloyd, was playing soccer in her first Olympics.
"No one really understood why I was getting so excited," Sweet said. "I had to hide watching the games on my computer."
And if Sweet couldn't be near a television or covertly follow along on her computer, she had her sister, Karen, their mom, Maureen, and their friend, Laura Verzi-Aleszczyk, texting her updates about the games.
Because the 2008 Olympics were held in Beijing, Sweet wasn't the only loved one going through painstaking efforts to watch Lloyd and the rest of the national team play live.
"I remember getting up at all hours of the morning to watch the games and setting my alarm for 4 a.m. or 5 a.m.," Verzi-Aleszczyk said. "I felt nervous like I was getting ready to play in a game myself. But it was also really cool and exciting to see her play at that level."
It got even more exciting for her friends and family when Lloyd scored the clutch overtime goal in the gold medal game that lifted the American over Brazil, 1-0.
"I don't think I've ever screamed that loud," Lloyd's cousin, Jamie Bula, said. "I get the chills thinking about it."
This time around, Patti Wilson and her husband, Wayne, of Wildwood, will be headed to London to see their niece play. About a year ago, the Wilsons decided they would have to attend if the team qualified and Lloyd made the final roster. But after watching the Americans play in Germany for the World Cup, Patti knew they'd have to stretch out the trip to take in the whole tournament.
"We stayed 11 days, but it was the first part of it [World Cup], and it was just so hard to leave," Wilson said. "We kept saying to ourselves, 'What are we doing?' "
So the Wilsons will arrive for the end of the first- round matches and won't leave until after the Aug. 9 gold-medal final.
"When we see her, she makes all of us beam," Wilson said of Lloyd. "We can't believe that she's made it this far. To us, she's just Carli."
The national team has gone 14-1-1 in its last 16 games, outscoring opponents, 66-8. In that span, Japan is the only team to beat coach Pia Sundhage's squad, a 1-0 defeat in March. Less than a month later, Japan and the U.S. national team tied, 1-1. On June 18, however, the national team defeated the Japanese for the first time in four games, 4-1.
For Lloyd, the battle reminds her of the friendlies the team played against Brazil before the Beijing Games. Before the 2008 Games, Brazil was a team that "definitely intimidated us a lot," Lloyd said.
But after a series of exhibition matches, Lloyd and the rest of the national team got accustomed to the Brazilians' style of play.
"The final was the first game the whole tournament that I didn't feel nervous," Lloyd said of the 2008 Games. "Now, with Japan, we know we can do well and shut them down."
Lloyd was the only member of the squad to start the first 19 games of 2011, including all six World Cup matches. Overall, Lloyd started 19 of 20 total games played last year, scoring six goals. So far in 2012, Lloyd has scored eight goals for the national team, six of which came in the first four games of the year.
But recently Lloyd hasn't been getting as much playing time, with her last start coming May 27, when the national team faced off against China at PPL Park in Chester. After several first-half chances, Lloyd was replaced at halftime by Lauren Cheney.
Since that game, Lloyd has become a halftime sub, playing the entirety of the second half.
"I know I'm still the same player, and I'm doing what I need to do as a center midfielder," Lloyd said. "You have ups and downs in your career. You just have to learn how to deal with it and embrace the obstacles. I'm ready for whatever role Pia is willing to put me in. At the end of the day, I'm not trying to figure it out. I know what I can bring to the team.
"I come up big in big moments."
Lloyd's longtime trainer and friend, James Galanis, who has held four- to six-hour sessions with the midfielder every day while she is on break from the national team, says the adversity will only push Lloyd to go harder. He said she has proven herself to thrive when pressure situations come up.
He also said her offensive strengths make her an invaluable asset to the team.
"Carli has a unique quality that she's dangerous in the attacking third," Galanis said. "She's able to thread dangerous balls. She's able to take on players. She's also got the capability to shoot."
After training in Middlesbrough, England, the U.S. team will face off against France in its first group match of the tournament on Wednesday. Three days later, the team will go up against Colombia, before rounding out group play on July 31 against Korea.
"With this being my second [Olympics], I kind of know what to expect and how to deal with pressure situations," Lloyd said, "I just want to go there and have fun. I know I'll be ready."
As for Sweet, she's learned her lesson.