NATIONAL University star Jaja Santiago is embracing a more active role given to her by new Lady Bulldogs head coach Roger Gorayeb in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament.
The veteran mentor, who took over just a week ago, has made the 6-foot-4 sophomore middle blocker the focal point of the Lady Bulldogs offense and defense, hoping to bring out her immense potential.
It is a challenge that Santiago, last year’s Rookie of the Year, had been expected to take on since the departure of elder sister and former top NU scorer Dindin Santiago this season.
But now Gorayeb, who also handles San Sebastian in the NCAA, wants to fast-track Jaja’s development as the Lady Bulldogs true leader, saying she expects her to be able to produce at least five points per set.
“Accept ko naman po kasi sino ba naman ang 6-4 na pag pumalo (parang hindi 6-4), aanhin mo ’yung height mo kung hindi mo rin naman mama-maximize ’yung kakayahan mo,” said Santiago.
The rising star registered a career high 28 points against University of Santo Tomas in the Lady Bulldogs’ first game under Gorayeb followed by a 26-point explosion against Adamson at the end of their campaign in the first round of the eliminations.
Santiago scored as low as 10 points in a couple of three-setters earlier this season although she also came up with huge performances, including a 19-point production in a three-set loss to Far Eastern University.
But regardless of who is calling the shots for the team, Santiago said it is up to her to live up to her potential.
“Actually kahit hindi naman po siya (Gorayeb) ‘yung coach namin, or kahit sino (na coach) kaya naman po ilabas (ang full potential ko) kasi nasa tao naman din ‘yun, kung kaya mong imaximize ‘yung sarili mo,” she said.
“Nasa setter ’yan or libero pagbigay sayo ng bola nasa ’yo naman ’yun kung papatayin mo agad or papaluin mo agad ang bola,” she added.
National U ended the first round of elimination with a 4-3 card, good for third spot behind Ateneo (7-0) and La Salle (6-1).