Post-match, Victoria Dennis of UC Irvine women’s volleyball is used to jogging off the court, completing her post-game routine and finding a text.
“Good job tonight.”
“You looked great out there.”
The red-shirt junior would smile and respond, sending a text over 9,076 miles away to her father who spent the last year in Djibouti, Africa with the United States Navy.
During his time in Africa, his 25th year of service, Lieutenant Commander Scott Dennis would watch any game he could that happened to be streamed or broadcast. With the 10-hour time difference he often stayed up into the early hours of the morning cheering on the Anteaters and his outside hitter all while decked out in his UCI Athletics gear.
Dennis even shared that once while he was sporting Irvine gear abroad, a fellow navy-man walked by and flashed the “Zot” sign saying, “Go Irvine!”
“There were at least two of us supporting UCI from Africa!” said Dennis.
After arriving in Virginia two weeks ago to complete his final duties before returning home, Dennis arrived back in Southern California for UC Irvine’s conference opener and drove straight to the matchup at Long Beach State.
After not seeing her father for a year, Victoria got to see him safe and sound in the stands.
Since Dennis’ departure in 2014, Victoria has earned a spot in the starting lineup for UCI and currently paces the ’Eaters with 204 kills, a mark that ranks fifth-best in league.
Wednesday night at Crawford Court on the campus of UC Irvine, Dennis had the opportunity to watch his daughter start at home for the very first time.
Beaming from ear to ear in the stands, Dennis clapped modestly as the announcer read Victoria’s name in the starting lineup.
The father-daughter pair connected pre-game as Victoria tossed her old man a signed mini volleyball, a starter-ritual, sending a big smile his way.
UCI went on to take its Big West home opener in five sets versus Cal State Fullerton to clinch its first W in league.
Wednesday night, it wasn’t necessary for Victoria to run to check her phone after the match – instead, the junior jogged off the court, completed her post-game routine, and met her father with a hug.
Both beamed from ear-to-ear with pride for the other.
The father-daughter duo celebrated the win, at home.