Chen Abramovich knows how to defend. Both for her team and for her country.
The sophomore Defensive Specialist on UNL’s Volleyball Team is a native of Kfar Saba, Israel. She served in her country’s Army as required and attended a one-month basic training period directly after graduation.
Abramovich lived in a tent for 30 days, in constant fear of upsetting the guards. She wanted nothing more than to shower or see her family.
“It was the most grueling thing I’ve ever been through. I would wake up around four a.m. and some days even earlier to make breakfast for all the others,” the 21-year-old said.
She learned Israeli army values, how to shoot a gun and most importantly how to work with a team.
“People were coming over trying to attack us,” Abramovich said.
After a stressful day, the cadets were allowed one free hour at night. The cadets could charge their phones, talk to parents, shower, but with so many women and so few chargers and showers, the women didn’t have much time.
“You basically have about five free minutes, but you have to keep your gun with you at all times,” Abramovich said. “I was so dirty, I just wanted to take a shower every minute.”
When they slept, officers would sneak into tents to try to steal their guns. The cadets had to sleep with their guns under their pillows.
“If they steal your gun, you get punished,” Abramovich said.
Basic training took a toll on her volleyball.
“It was hard to come back. I didn’t get good nutrition, I wasn’t practicing and I lost everything,” Abramovich said.
She played on the Israeli national team and had to miss competitions for basic training. However, her status as an athlete allowed her to work an office job after completing basic training.
She cannot disclose what she was doing in her job, but Abramovich’s basic training did help her in some aspects.
“I think what I learned from basic training was how to work as a team,” Abramovich said.
No matter the circumstances, the women had to work together.
“Basic training could honestly be the greatest experience if you know how to work as a team,” Abramovich said.
This teamwork translates to her volleyball. When times are tough at practice or in the game, Abramovich remembers how she worked with the other women in their own terrible conditions.
UNL assistant volleyball coach Kayla Banwarth thinks Abramovich exemplifies teamwork in her training and how she competes.
“She is definitely a team player, everyone knows that with no question,” Banwarth said. “She’s always working on how she can make the person next to her better.”
Even though she is a team player, it was not easy for Abramovich to adapt to Nebraska and to the team at first.
“I came here and knew no one,” she said. “I had never talked to anyone, and I only knew my coaches and just being foreign and trying to fit in it was hard.”
Abramovich has not been able to go home yet, due to her competition schedule. She didn’t consider these issues when she left Israel.
She always wanted to come to the U.S., but when she arrived she was unable to talk much with her family.
“When you need that immediate support, you just don’t have it,” Abramovich said.
She missed the beach and nice weather. Last winter she experienced snow for the first time.
“I have to talk a completely different language,” Abramovich said. “I just miss it a lot from back home.”
Her team stepped up and offered support in other ways. She and Sophomore outside hitter Capri Davis arrived together as freshmen in 2018.
“There’s not really a ton of places here that remind her of home, but we go to The Oven, because the bread reminds her of home,” Davis said.
Davis, the 19-year-old from Dallas, Texas, said Abramovich is always willing to go out of her way for people.
“I think she’s really a super consistent person. I mean, Chen is always there for you, no matter if you’re a starter or not,” Davis said.
Abramovich is thankful for her team’s support, but sometimes she needs more.
“Obviously there are times I need my parents, but my team is there for me,” Abramovich said.
Abramovich’s mother, Ofraa Abramovich agrees it was difficult for her daughter to leave, “but we put our thoughts and feelings aside and give her all the backup needed,” she said.
Despite this support, Abramovich almost didn’t come to UNL. Her class committed in 2015, and she started sending videos of her playing in 2017.
“Everyone said I probably wouldn’t make it, but I thought, I’ll just give it a shot,” Abramovich said. “I did everything by myself.”
She was the first Israeli volleyball player to try, and she sought the help of an agent who told her not to even try.
“She was determined and she started to collect video clips of her playing and submitted them to a few colleges in the USA,” Offra Abramovich said. “When she got the mail from Nebraska she stopped looking for more and decided to go for the best one.”
Banwarth, who also serves as recruiting coordinator for the Huskers, took interest and invited Abramovich on an official visit.
“We felt like she’d be a good fit because of her personality and obviously the girls love her here,” Banwarth said. “She’s open, friendly and talkative.”
Now, she loves Nebraska. She says everyone is always smiling.
“Here I am, in the best team in the country. I don’t think I got lucky, I worked hard for it,” Abramovich said.
Last year the UNL team made it to NCAA finals.
“As a team it was the best thing that could have happened to us,” Abramovich said.
Their team goal this season is to win the Big Ten Championship and the National Championships.
Abramovich says they need to work as a team to accomplish these goals.
“No one can play alone and just win,” Abramovich said.
For the time being she is all in on volleyball, but her future is undecided. Davis wouldn’t be surprised if Abramovich decided to serve more in the Army.
“She has a helping heart, and especially knowing her mom and the position she had, I wouldn’t put it past her,” Davis said.
Abramovich said her mother has one of the most important jobs in Israel. She plans and implements educational programs about the knowledge of the country’s culture, politics, geography, history, Israeli Defense Force values and more.
Ofraa Abramovich said her position is important because Israel is a melting pot of people and she helps empower soldiers and contribute to their cohesion and sense of belonging.
“It is very important and noble to serve, since our country is under constant threat,” Ofraa Abramovich said.
Ofraa Abramovich taught her daughters that each one of them should give something to their country, and the army is just one of the places that they can give back.
Abramovich doesn’t want to be a fighter like her father, but she considers following in her mother’s footsteps.
“Sport in Israel is not that big,” Abramovich said. “I want to do something really important.”