"I never expected to immediately be in the varsity eight coming here," said Vander Hoeven. "It's amazing. I am rowing with such high-class rowers. It's such an honor to be in the boat with the other girls. It's unbelievable."
Vander Hoeven stepped on campus and earned her spot quickly in the top boat for Syracuse. At the Princeton Chase in October, Vander Hoeven held down the fourth seat in the crew's first competition of the 2014-15 season. She has been a member of the first varsity eight boat in every race since.
It's been a quite a journey for the St. Catharines, Ontario native. In high school, she started out playing ice hockey. Her science teacher, who happened to be the rowing coach, convinced her to try out for the sport and she excelled early and kept with it.
"Hockey and rowing are both team-oriented," added Vander Hoeven. "In rowing, you are even closer to the team. In hockey, you are always with the team, but in rowing you are doing the same thing, working together to make one unit and make the boat go as fast you can."
Similar to many of the international rowers on the Syracuse squad, Vander Hoeven's prior rowing experience came in smaller boats. She actually rowed in a double in high school with her cousin. Those times in smaller boats have certainly prepared her for the rowing aspect of being a student-athlete.
Vander Hoeven came to Syracuse with a heralded prep background. She helped her team to consecutive Stotesbury Cup and CSSRA Championships gold-medal finishes in 2013 and 2014. Now, she would have to undertake the challenge of balancing academics and rowing at Syracuse University.
"It's really different than high school," commented Vander Hoeven. "It took a lot of adjusting in the beginning, but I think I have gotten the hang of it now. We have great support. The tutors in the Stevenson Educational Center are amazing and I have found that to be very helpful."
One of the other things that has aided her in the adjustment is the support of her teammates. Vander Hoeven earned a spot in the first varsity eight crew quickly. The upperclassmen certainly made her feel at home and aided her in the transition process.
"They have been really great," stated Vander Hoeven. "They have really wanted everyone to feel comfortable and like they are a part of the rowing family. It's been really nice."
Vander Hoeven and the No. 17 Syracuse women's rowing team race at No. 1 Ohio State on Saturday morning. The Orange will also take on No. 13 Michigan and Michigan State in its final race of the regular season.
"This is really new for me," concluded Vander Hoeven. "I hope we can make NCAAs. That is the goal for this season. We are trying so hard. Doing well this weekend will really help move us up in the rankings. We are all just trying as hard as we can."