Rachel Van Hollebeke (the former Rachel Buehler) always was a brainiac.
She graduated from Stanford in 2007 with a degree in human biology. Her plan was to go to medical school, until she was called up to join the U.S. women’s team.
Eight years later, she’s returning to Plan A.
Van Hollebeke, a defender for the Portland Thorns, announced this week in a letter to fans that she’s retiring to enroll in medical school at the end of this month at University of California San Diego.
“Unfortunately, there is overlap between the end of the NWSL season and the beginning of school,” she wrote. “Depending on the team’s need and my medical school schedule, I will do my best to remain available to the Thorns through the duration of the season. I love this team and this city, and I want to continue to contribute however I can.”
Van Hollebeke, who just turned 30, has 113 international appearances. She won gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and was a member of the 2011 World Cup team that finished second to Japan. In the quarterfinal of that World Cup, the win-for-the-ages over Brazil (“Can you believe it?” quoth Ian Darke. “Abby Wambach has saved the USA’s life in this World Cup!!”), Van Hollebeke drew a red card when she pulled Marta down in the box, forcing the Americans to play the last 55 minutes of regular and extra time down a player.
In 2014, she fought he way through injuries ad was one of the last players cut from the roster for this summer’s World Cup in Canada.
In her letter to Thorns’ fans, Von Hollebeke wrote:
I have had so many incredible experiences during my soccer career. I’ve developed friendships that I will cherish forever and I’ve gained skills, like work ethic, perseverance, teamwork, mindfulness, and performance under pressure that will serve me my entire life.
It is difficult to express what a privilege it has been to play for both club and country. If you’ve ever watched me during the National Anthem, I take it very seriously and sing with all my heart. Wearing the Red, White and Blue for over 100 games is the greatest honor of my life.
Another Stanford grad who chose soccer over medical school was Julie Foudy.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in biology in 1993, she turned down an admission into Stanford Medical School to continue her athletic career — which turned out to be a pretty good choice.