One of the NCAA’s top blockers got her start in the sport walking to a local Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in her hometown of Toronto.
That’s really how St. John’s University redshirt-junior middle blocker Danisha Moss began her volleyball career.
“When I was 14, my club coach found me walking to the KFC and asked me if I wanted to play. I was 14 and was 5-11 or 6-feet tall at the time,” recalls the 6-3 Moss, whose volleyball nickname is the same as the title of this story, “The Great Wall of Canada.”
“I started late in the season and they didn’t have time to teach me the volleyball basics,” she says. “They told me to go up there and block and that’s all I did. I didn’t hit or serve. It was all blocking. It became part of who I was. Basically, it’s all I’ve been doing since then.”
And she has the numbers to back it up. Through Thursday at St. John’s in Jamaica, N.Y., Moss ranked fourth among NCAA Division I players in total blocks (104) and seventh in blocks-per-set average (1.60). She already has 104 blocks (25 solos) in 65 sets compared to 115 blocks in 98 sets a year ago.
“The key for me definitely is knowing who my attackers are on the other side of the net and adjusting to them,” she explains. “If it’s a really big attacker, I know I have to go a little early. If it’s a smaller attacker I go up a little late because smaller attackers hit off-hand. You have to know who your attackers are and how high they jump and then you adjust.”
Moss, who says footwork also plays a key role in her blocking ability, is a big fan of the aftermath a big rejection creates.
“I enjoy the thrill of it all,” she says. “I get a big block and I’m so excited. It pumps me up and it pumps the team up. It pumps the team up even more and really kick-starts the game. Even if we’re behind three of four points in a set and we get that big block off a really good attacker, it pushes us to another level.”
There also is the mental side to putting up a superior block.
“You have to be focused and you have to get those hands up and getting ready to grab, set, dump or tip. And you have to make sure the footwork is there and you are moving quickly across the net.”
St. John’s is 11-7 overall, 2-3 in the Big East, while fielding a lineup that many times features three freshmen. The Red Storm’s starting lineup also features players from four countries (U.S., Italy, Canada and Finland).
The Italian is setter Erica Di Maulo, who was last week’s Big East freshman of the week who certainly enjoys setting Moss, who is also averaging 1.60 kills per set while hitting .320.
St. John’s coach Joanne Persico rates Moss’ skills at a nationally superior level.
“First and foremost Danisha is an extremely hard-working and intelligent person on and off the court,” she says. “She is one of the most athletic and physical players, not only in the Big East Conference, but in the country.”
The Red Storm plays host to Marquette on Friday and DePaul on Saturday.
Danisha Moss’ 3 Blocking Tips
1. Footwork. Footwork. Footwork. All the time. Footwork is a major key.
2. Blocking penetration all the time. Another really important aspect.
3. Have confidence. Confidence is another big part of blocking. I’m so confident in what I do. I know blocking is the best asset of the game. When I’m on the net, I own it. It’s my net regardless of who we are playing or if they are a ranked team. Own it and have confidence in your skills.
Four Things to Know about Danisha Moss
1. One of 16 siblings — 16 is not a typo.
2. Enjoys watching Korean drama shows
3. Pregame ritual is eating grapes
4. Favorite sports team is the Toronto Blue Jays