p1440 Developmental Program: Nora Darrhar, Victoria Dennis grounded in gratitude
There is relatively little that Victoria Dennis and Nora Darrhar have in common, at least when comparing backgrounds. For there’s Darrhar, a half-Moroccan, half-Belgian former libero, the daughter of a man who competed for the Moroccan equestrian national team; and there’s Dennis, a 6-foot-3 living personification of all things California – tall, blonde, lean, athletic, a standout at UC Irvine before pursuing a professional indoor career in Peru, all of which preceded various jobs in the media when she returned to the United States.
While Darrhar once helped Morocco to an eighth-place finish in the African Nations Championship in Nairobi, Dennis recently represented the U.S. in a NORCECA in the Caribbean, taking fifth with Melissa Fuchs-Powell.
And yet despite their decidedly different backgrounds and volleyball paths that took place on separate continents, here they are, in Huntington Beach three days a week, practicing together, competing together, enjoying the same type of mindset together.
In a short interview, one that lasted maybe five minutes, “I try not to take anything for granted,” became their unofficial team motto. Dennis mentioned it after describing a typical day in which she wakes up “around 6:30, 7, come down to practice for two to three hours, go to OC Fast Twitch for strength and agility training. I go home, make sure my nutrition is in check, and I get to work remotely, which is great, and then I get to do it all over again. I try not to take anything for granted.”
Darrhar both opened and closed her response with it when asked how it is to live and train in California as opposed to, say, Nairobi.
“For me,” she said, “I try not to take anything for granted. I know when you live here, it seems normal, but I know it’s not. I’ve played in countries like Nigeria, on a little court that’s not even sand, it’s, it’s – I don’t know. It’s horrible. So I just try to enjoy every minute of the day and not take anything for granted.”
It’s evident neither of them do. The words “lucky” and “blessed” were common refrains, and on January 18, Darrhar had another reason to celebrate: the acceptance of her Visa, which will allow her to remain in the U.S. and train and compete for another four years.
“It still doesn’t feel real,” she wrote on social media. “I cannot wait to focus on other things.”
Other things, like qualifying on the AVP and p1440 tours. Like competing for Morocco. Like improving at, well, “everything,” she said. “Strength, flexibility, technique, vertical – everything. I need to get better, as better as it can get.”
And, with the added timeline from the Visa, better as a team.
“We basically give it our all every time we play, and there’s no other option other than to win,” Dennis said. “We play to win and we play to compete and I think that’s the basis of our team.”
A team formed from one side of the world to the next, and one that has become, through gratitude, perfectly aligned.
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