'Blessed' Van Hollebeke heads off to medical school

Rachel Van Hollebeke, capped 113 times by the United States and winner of Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012, announced her retirement from soccer so she can begin medical school in her hometown at UC San Diego in the fall. The 30-year-old defender was a starter at the 2011 Women's World Cup but was a late cut from the 2015 Women's World Cup team.

Van Hollebeke (née Buehler) was pre-med in human biology at Stanford and took her medical school entrance exams in 2008. She was accepted into UCSD in 2011 but has been deferring until this fall. Her father, Donald, was a long-time heart surgeon in San Diego.

"I'm sad to be leaving the game because I love soccer, I love my teammates and I love Portland, but it's also been a passion of mine for a long time to attend medical school, and this is the right time to start that journey," said Van Hollebeke, who has played the last three seasons for Portland Thorns FC. "Soccer has been a huge part of my life, but I am so excited for this next step. I feel ready. I felt a shift this year and it was the right time to begin this part of my life."

She starred on the U.S. team that won the 2002 Under-19 Women's World Cup in Canada. She tore her ACL in the championship game against host Canada and suffered another ACL injury on her other knee before graduating from high school. She made her full national team debut under Pia Sundhage against China at the Algarve Cup in March 2008.

Van Hollebeke held down a starting spot until 2012 when she gave way to Becky Sauerbrunn in the middle of the backline alongside Christie Rampone. The emergence of Whitney Engen and then Julie Johnston pushed her down the U.S. depth chart at center back. Van Hollebeke and Crystal Dunn were the last cuts as U.S. coach Jill Elis reduced the Women's World Cup roster to 23 players.

Van Hollebeke won league championships in both WPS with FC Gold Pride (2010) and the NWSL with the Thorns (2013). She also played in 2011 for the Boston Breakers. She will end her career at Portland when this season concludes. Due to her medical school commitments, she may not be available for the final two regular-season games but could be available for the playoffs if the Thorns qualify.

"I feel so blessed to have had the experiences in this game and I'm so thankful to my family, my husband and of course, all of my coaches and the support staff I've worked with over the years," said Van Hollebeke. "My teammates are all like my sisters, and I love them all so much. I will forever be honored to be a part of such an outstanding group of women. In the end, I'm just very thankful to U.S. Soccer for investing in me at an early age and for bestowing on me the greatest honor of representing the United States for so many years."
1 comment about "'Blessed' Van Hollebeke heads off to medical school".
  1. Soccer Madness, August 26, 2015 at 8:57 a.m.

    Did she get a scholarship to that school? And is she still eligible for one after playing pro?

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