It was a proud Saturday for Dindin Santiago when she witnessed her former UST high school teammates Alyssa Valdez and Kim Fajardo go at it in the 1st round matchup of Ateneo and La Salle in Season 78.
Valdez and Fajardo ended up as top scorers for both squads, pouring 11 and 13 points, respectively.
Unexpectedly, the match ended in straight sets with the Taft squad dominating the defending champions in all scoring and non-scoring skills.
“In-expect ko 5 sets eh,” admitted Santiago, a former NU star.
“Nung 1st set kasi ang ganda nung laban, dikitan. Tapos nagulat ako nung 2nd set, lumayo na ‘yung score ng La Salle. Pumasok na bigla sa isip ko na parang straight sets,” she added. “Tapos nung 3rd set, dikitan ulit. Tapos nung naiwan na ‘yung Ateneo, hindi talaga magpapabaya ‘yung La Salle kasi nga once nagpabaya sila, alam nila ‘yung Ateneo pag naka-set ‘yan dire-diretso na.”
Despite trailing in the 3rd set, the Lady Spikers remained composed, catching up and eventually taking the win and their pride back after losing 6 straight games against their arch rival.
On what La Salle did right, the 6-foot-2 spiker shares, “Ang ginawang tama ng la Salle is talagang hindi nila pinabayaan ‘yung score. Kahit lamang ‘yung Ateneo pinaglaban pa rin nila na dapat sila na manalo sa 3rd set.”
Aside from the renewed mental toughness of the Taft squad, the leadership and the all-around performance of team captain Kim Fajardo became huge factors in the win.
This, in the eyes of Santiago, did not go unnoticed.
“Idol si Kim (Fajardo)! Ang ganda nung mga ace niya. ‘Yung set niya ang relax,” she said wide-eyed.
Remembering the times when they were still playing for the Junior Tigresses, Santiago shared how Fajardo used to struggle as a setter after being converted from being a spiker.
“Naaalala ko kasi nung high school kami, challenge sa kanya ‘yung mag set eh kasi dati siyang spiker na kinonvert lang,” shared the mom-to-be.
“Ngayon minahal na niya ‘yung pwesto niya. Nakikita ko sa kanya kung gaano ka-easy ‘yung pwesto sa kanya ngayon,” she added. “Na-amaze ako kasi hindi pa rin nawawala sa kanya ‘yung pagka-spiker niya. Tapos effective ‘yung pagiging beach volley player niya. Basta ang ganda ng nilaro niya.”
On the other hand, Santiago warned of Valdez and the rest of the Lady Eagles being out to avenge the loss when the two teams meet again in the 2nd round.
“Si Ly (Valdez) alam ko babawi ‘yan. Alyssa is Alyssa at alam ko babawi siya,” she said.
“Hihintayin ko ‘yung 2nd round nila na magatatapat ulit ang Ateneo at La Salle kasi alam ko ito na ‘yung intense na laro talaga,” she added looking excited. “‘Yung una ko inakala na magfi-5th set, dun ko hihintayin kasi crucial na ‘yun. iisipin mo n rin ‘yung pwestuhan sa finals.”
“Pero siyempre La Salle naman hindi rin magpapabaya kaya magiging intense ‘yun.” — By Mac Dionisio