JAJA Santiago earned the UAAP Press Corps Player of the Week from February 7-11 after leading the National University to an impressive 3-0 start in the Season 80 women’s volleyball tournament.
The graduating 6-foot-5 star did not only put up stellar numbers in their past three games but she also proved that she is the heart and soul of the Lady Bulldogs.
Santiago erupted with 26 points built on 20 kills, four blocks and two service aces to turn back Ateneo de Manila in five sets, 25-19, 25-19, 20-25, 12-25, 15-7, last Wednesday. She unloaded 23 points to carry the Lady Bulldogs to their third straight win in avoiding the upset ax against University of the East, 25-15, 18-25, 25-22, 25-19, on Sunday.
The team captain of NU is now the second-best scorer averaging 21.7 points in three games, just two points shy of UST’s Cherry Rondina, who averages 23.3 points per game.
She bested this week’s candidates Rondina, Jema Galanza of Adamson and Michelle Cobb of La Salle for the weekly nod given by sportswriters from broadsheets, tabloids and online.
For NU head coach Babes Castillo, Santiago is not only giving the impressive numbers the team needs, she also stepped up when it mattered most.
“I think their captain responded right on the dot on what the situation is asking for,” said Castillo on Santiago. “The team has to go with the captain. You listen to your captain. Kung ano sinabi ng captain, go with your captain. That's it.”
The Lady Bulldogs squandered a 2-0 set lead to Ateneo and lost a set to UE but through Santiago’s unstoppable talent and infectious leadership, her team regained their confidence and escaped the trouble in both games.
“Sinabi ko lang sa teammates ko is, 'yun nga, sabi ni coach, kailangan natin ibalik 'yung tatlo, which is ‘yung deserved respect for every point, stay 100 percent whistle to whistle and communication sa loob ng court,” said Santiago, who is No.1 in spiking department with a total of 49 kills and second in blocking with 0.92 average by set behind De La Salle’s reigning Most Valuable Player Majoy Baron (1.13 average by set).
Santiago and the Lady Bulldogs will have one week to prepare before facing their biggest test on Sunday next week against the two-time defending champion De La Salle Lady Spikers at 2 p.m. at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.