At 24 years old, Evelina Galova-Iossifov had no intentions of playing tennis ever again, let alone at GC where she works as a media lab coordinator.
“The coach at the time saw me play on the courts just for fun, and he invited me to join the team,” Galova-Iossifov said. “I said, ‘Absolutely no way! I’m done, I’m just playing for fun.’ This went on for three or four years. One day I was like, ‘You know what, maybe I should start playing again.’”
In 2001 at 29 years old, Galova-Iossifov joined the GC tennis team under current head coach Steve Barsby.
Galova-Iossifov, also known as Eva by students, was introduced to sports at a young age when she was growing up in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, one of top three oldest living cities in the world.
“Bulgaria is a communist country, so all sports were big,” Galova-Iossifov said. “We had athletes in every Olympic game. We had some great athletes and some great coaches. We had a lot of sports back in the day.”
At the age of four, Eva began training as a swimmer but was forced to quit when her parents learned she had a kidney disease that would result in dialysis treatments if she continued to swim. Her parents encouraged her to try other activities such as piano, but she quickly became uninterested.
Two years later when Eva was six years old, her father, sports broadcasting icon Nikolay Galov, suggested trying a new sport.
“I looked at basketball, but I saw that people punched each other and pushed each other and shoved each other, and I thought, that’s not for me,” Galova-Iossifov said. “Then I watched tennis and thought, ‘Perfect! No one’s going to push me or shove me!’ So that’s how I picked tennis.”
Eva attended the National Sports Academy in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, a four-year university for athletes. She began playing tennis for the National Sports Academy while working to obtain a degree. She planned to graduate and work alongside her father on his sports radio show, but this dream came to an end when her father unexpectedly died due to a stroke.
“I got a call, the day he passed, from his radio station asking me to come down to the station,” Eva said. “When I got there, his boss threw me his headphones and said, ‘Your dad’s show is about to start and you’re filling in.’”
Eva continued to fill in on her father’s radio show while she continued pursuing her degree. She graduated college in 1995 and decided to take on the radio show full time. Two years later, Eva and her husband Hristo Iossifov moved to the U.S.
“When my husband and I moved here in ’97, we chose to move here to Milledgeville because his sister and her family had already moved here, so at the time it was them and us,” Galova-Iossifov said.
In Milledgeville, Galova-Iossifov decided to continue her education at GC, beginning her first year at GC as a junior in the journalism field.
Being older than her teammates created a different dynamic between Eva and her coach, Steve Barsny. Eva and Barsby understood the importance of respect, and it was key to their relationship.
“He swears that if he ever writes a book about his career as a coach [at GC], there would be a chapter in it devoted to me, and the chapter would be called ‘Triple X’ because of my potty mouth and the jokes I make, and my filter is not very well set,” Galova-Iossifov said. “But it’s part of our relationship with the coach and the other teammates. It was really a great year.”
Due to NCAA rules, Galova-Iossifov was only able to play on the team for one year because she had played at a previous institution in Bulgaria for four years.
Her partner for the season, Megan Ward, was an international student from the United Kingdom, and the two clicked right away.
“Eva had a lot of strong points to her game,” said Ward, now a GC alum. “A fantastic forehand and great volleys...Anyone who has met Eva knows how glamorous she is, and on a tennis court she was no different.”
However, Ward said running back for lobs was not one of Eva’s strengths, calling “Yours!” whenever she was lobbed.
“I remember scampering around behind her as our opposition would lob her from side to side,” Ward said. ”And while I was sweating behind her scrabbling to get the ball back, she would happily prance across the court at the net shouting “Yours!” Sometimes I am sure she could have reached the ball but preferred to let me run!”
Graduating from GC with a degree in communication, Galova-Iossifov went on to work for WMVG and their sister station WKZR Radio. But after 20 years, she decided it was time for a change, and in July 2017, she returned to GC to work as the Media Lab Coordinator for the Mass Communications department.
“Mrs. Eva is one of the kindest, most helpful people I know,” said senior Darlyn Davis, a mass communication major. “She has always been extremely supportive of all students that walk into the lab and encourages them to reach their fullest potential in every endeavor they are in. She is truly a breath of fresh air in the lab especially when you are frustrated on a project and she comes in a saves the day or even offers a different perspective on your work.”
Since landing the job as media lab coordinator she has taken over additional roles at GC, such as becoming the advisor for the school’s radio station WGUR 95.3.
“Looking at it, this small office-storage-media lab, it doesn’t look like much, but I’m one of those lucky few people who have always loved what they’ve done,” Galova-Iossifov said. “I love the radio station. I love this job.”
Photos courtesy of Eva Galova-Iossifov