Jaja Santiago: Towering over adversity

Mark Escarlote on Jan 30, 2017 06:36 PM
Jaja Santiago: Towering over adversity
Ang mga expectations na ‘yun tini-take ko siya as a challenge for me para ma-motivate ako na maglaro -- Jaja Santiago

Jaja Santiago will be carrying a much heavier burden for National University when the UAAP Season 79 women’s volleyball tournament opens shop on February 4.

The 6-foot-5 middle will not only try to tow the Lady Bulldog back in the Final Four after missing the cut last year but will also have to rally a short-handed crew in the battles ahead.

And with two major international stints last year coupled by good reviews from foreign coaches that saw her potential, the expectations on Santiago are high.

Too much responsibility for a 20-year-old player leading a team with only 11 players in its lineup.     

But the reigning back-to-back Best Attacker is taking it all as an inspiration to finally spread her wings and shine.

“’Yang expectations nand’yan na ‘yan,” said Santiago, who averaged 15.21 points per game last season.

“Pero siyempre ang mga expectations na ‘yun tini-take ko siya as a challenge for me para ma-motivate ako na maglaro,” she added. “Hindi ko siya masyadong iniisip as a negative. Siyempre kung iisipin ko pa ang expectations na ‘yun baka hindi ko pa malabas ang laro ko at mawala pa ang focus ko sa paglalaro.”

Last season, Santiago was the most efficient attacker with 47.52% success rate and played a solid role in defense with 0.49 kill blocks per set and a dangerous player on the service line with 0.43 service aces per set but was not enough to save NU from dropping to fifth spot after three straight semis appearances.

Her game improved even more during the V-League when she led the Lady Bulldogs to a repeat crown in the Collegiate Conference capped by her first-ever Most Valuable Player award.

Santiago also helped Foton win back-to-back titles in the import-laden Philippine Superliga Grand Prix, where she won MVP and a runner-up finish in the All-Filipino Conference.

She even showed her versatility playing as utility in her stints in the Asian Women’s Club Volleyball Championship and in the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship, becoming an even more dangerous scorer.   

With her improved game, volleyball pundits are saying that Santiago will dominate this season.

And with young setter Jasmine Nabor having good chemistry with her attacking style, the guarantee of Santiago towering over the opposition is clear.     

“Sobrang confident ko na si Jasmin ang setter namin,” said Santiago of her playmaker, whom she played with back in high school. “Nakikita ko kasi sa kanya na kahit sinong spiker nakukuha niya. Nagkakaroon ng chemistry sa kanya. Nakikita ko rin kasi sa bata na mas nakikinig siya kung ano ang gusto ng spiker niya and kaya niyang mag-adjust kung anong receive o bigay ang ibinibigay sa kanya.”

Santiago’s leadership will be tested early when NU opens its campaign on February 4 against University of the East at the Big Dome.





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