Israeli Air Force veteran now playing volleyball for the Sun Devils

Avital Jaloba brings international flair and smiles to the ASU volleyball team

At 13 years old, freshman Avital Jaloba found her niche, her passion and the thing she loved to do more than anything else – volleyball.

"I was on the national team since I was 13. I really loved it," Jaloba said. "It was the best feeling, and I told myself I was going to be the best volleyball player I can be."

Since then, Jaloba’s life has been centered around the game. 

The Israel native began playing for the Israeli women’s national volleyball team in 2013 and continued to play for them even through her time serving in the Israeli military.

All eligible and healthy Israelis are required to serve for their country. For women it is just under two years of mandatory service, normally directly out of high school, according to Jaloba. 

Jaloba served two years in the Israeli Air Force but even then her focus was on volleyball. 

She woke up, ate, played volleyball for a few hours, went to the base to preform her military duties and then it was back to the courts.

“I could practice two times a day and go to army one time a day,” Jaloba said. “I was on the national team so we had different (military) criteria than most people.”

When her time with the Israeli Defense Forces was coming to end, Jaloba knew her next step was collegiate volleyball. From the moment she spoke with ASU volleyball coach, Sanja Tomasevic, Jaloba knew she found her future team. 

“Honestly I was talking with many coaches,” Jaloba said. “And my first talk with Sanja on the phone, my first thought was this is where I should be. So it's because of this woman.”

Tomasevic and the other coaches watched Jaloba's highlight video and knew they had to have her.

“We (the coaches) watched her video and she had this wicked arm," Tomasevic said. "Like when she hits, she hits really hard ball." 

Jaloba said her coaches in Israel only taught her to hit the ball and hit it hard, it wasn’t until ASU when she began to be coached on techniques on how to hit the ball. 

“Here the coaches really care about us and every single detail,” Jaloba said. “It’s important and (in Israel) it was different, ok just go play volleyball or whatever, nobody tells you really what you should do.”

To her coaches and teammates, Jaloba is more than just another player. She has become someone the team can count on to pick up the energy or just put a smile on their faces.

Jaloba's ability to read situations and people is one of her greatest strengths according to Tomasevic.

“She knows how to feel the pulse of the team like that’s (a) huge, huge blessing for our team,” Tomasevic said. “We joke (that) she’s the clown of the team. When the situation is tense, she will say something (that) will loosen up everybody, including us coaches.”

Senior middle blocker Carmen Unzue played on the team last season when the Sun Devils had a 10-22 overall record hopes that Jaloba and the other new Sun Devils will bring an energy to the team that was lacking last season.

“People like her (are the reason why this season will be better),” Unzue said. "Last year we had a lot of people that just didn’t want to be there and it was obvious, but now I feel most of us want to be there and work and have a good season finally.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @sophiabriseno on Twitter.

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