Jaja Santiago would do anything for love. Love for volleyball, that is.
While the 6-foot-5 spiker has been living and breathing volleyball since her high school days, her Wednesday proved to be extra challenging.
Fulfilling her duties in the club ranks first, Santiago played for Foton against Kazakhstan early afternoon in Biñan, Laguna before rushing to Pasig to lead NU in its tussle against UP.
And even though both games have less than an hour in between with the venues being 38 kilometers apart, the Lady Bulldog surprised everyone when she appeared at the PhilSports Arena in her NU garb, looking ready to pound some more balls.
“Pag mahal mo naman diba ibibigay mo lahat? Alam kong kaya akong dalhin ng love ko for volleyball,” an energetic Santiago told FOX Sports.
The middle blocker’s first game of the day didn’t end well as Foton bowed to the Kazakhs in straight sets.
Pain, however, did not linger on Santiago’s mind after she bolstered NU’s offense and defense to push the Sampaloc crew to its fourth straight finals appearance in the Collegiate Conference.
“Kagabi pa kami nag-uusap kung tutuloy ba ako sa V-League o hindi. Tapos kinausap ko ‘yung Foton kung pwede ako magpa-escort dito. Prinovide naman nila ‘yung kailangan ko kaya as in after ng game, dumiretso na ako dito,” she said.
To give Santiago a breather, NU assistant coach Edjet Mabbayad hardly used her in the first set, only calling her for service when UP was ahead, 18-15.
But in spite of missing a huge chunk of the action, Santiago still managed to topscore for NU with 25 points off 19 kills, 4 blocks and an ace.
How does she do it? Mind over matter, she says.
“‘Yung pagod wala naman. Ginamit ko ‘yung isip ko para maka-recover agad ‘yung katawan ko. Pag inisip ko kasing pagod ako wala na akong lalaruin dito,” she shared.
Talking about Foton’s loss in the Asian Women’s Club Championships, she adds: “Buo pa rin naman ang araw ko. Hindi pa rin naman ako sumusuko eh. Talo kami dun pero alam ko na malaking experience ang nakuha ko dun.”
With only 11 players in the lineup instead of the usual 14, the odds were already not looking to be on NU’s favor when the Lady Bulldogs started their campaign.
Yet with discipline and genuine respect for each other, the wards of head coach Riger Gorayeb provided more than what was expected to fill the void left by their former teammates.
“Lahat naman kami naglalaro ng 100%. Kung may kulang man, dapat maglaro kami ng higit pa sa 100% para mapunan ‘yung pagkukulang ng iba,” Santiago said.
“Disiplina na lang talaga ang labanan. Kailangan ‘yung focus sa paglalaro hindi mawawala,” she closed. — By Mac Dionisio