U.S. soccer hero Carli Lloyd, UFC star Ronda Rousey and three-time winner Serena Williams are the leading candidates for The Associated Press 2015 Female Athlete of the Year award.
The AP announced the three top vote-getters Monday, and the winner will be announced Friday.
The AP sports writers who cover the athletes wrote summaries of their 2015 achievements.
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- Carli Lloyd had the biggest game of her career on her sport's biggest stage. The midfielder from New Jersey had a hat trick in the final match at the Women's World Cup this summer, and the United States went on to beat Japan 5-2. All three of Lloyd's goals came in the first 16 minutes, and she booted the last one from a stunning 54 yards out. Lloyd finished this season with a career-best 18 goals and was honored as U.S. Soccer's Female Player of the Year. She's also up for FIFA's World Player of the Year award. - AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson
- Ronda Rousey has become the biggest star in mixed martial arts and a global celebrity, even as she ended a tumultuous year without her title belt. Rousey won two fights in a combined 48 seconds early in 2015 before losing to Holly Holm last month in one of the biggest upsets in recent sports history. After Rousey's meteoric ascent and jarring fall in between her acting jobs and provocative interviews, the sports world waits to see whether an athlete who once seemed invincible can win back her title. - AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham
- Serena Williams came oh-so-close to tennis' first Grand Slam in more than a quarter-century and ruled her sport most of the year, going 53-3 with a WTA-leading five titles, including three at major championships: on the Australian Open's hard courts in January, the French Open's red clay in June, and Wimbledon's grass in July. Ranked No. 1 from start to finish, she repeatedly overcame illness or injury and kept emerging from three-set struggles, until she finally succumbed to the Grand Slam pressure with a loss in the U.S. Open semifinals to Italy's Roberta Vinci. If anything, the surprise of that setback served to show just how dominant Williams had been all year - and at an age (she turned 34 in September) when most elite tennis players have retired. - AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich