Santiago leads MVP race; Morado, Fajardo locked in close battle for Best Setter award
Jaja Santiago of NU leads the MVP race of the UAAP Season 79 women's volleyball tournament at the end of the first round of the eliminations, followed by Bernadeth Pons, Diana Carlos, Michelle Morente (97) and EJ Laure in that order. Dante Peralta/ Jaime Campos

NATIONAL University star Jaja Santiago led the MVP race at the end of the first round of the UAAP Season 79 women’s volleyball eliminations, emerging as the league's leading scorer while making it to the top five of two more skill categories.

The fourth year 6-foot-5 NU middle blocker averaged 18.28 points from 128 points, on 87 spikes, 25 kill blocks and 16 service aces, while leading the Lady Bulldogs to a 4-3 win-loss record.

Far Eastern University top hitter Bernadeth Pons came in second with 118 total points followed by University of the Philippines sophomore Diana Carlos with 105 points. Returning Ateneo spiker Michelle Morente (97) and University of Santo Tomas hitter EJ Laure (94) round out the top five.

Like the UAAP's basketball tournament, statistics is the sole basis for the MVP race in women's volleyball.

Santiago also topped the blocking department with an average of 0.93 kill blocks per set, besting La Salle’s Aduke Ogunsanya (0.74), University of the East’s Jasmine Alcayde (0.63), last year’s best blocker Majoy Baron (0.57) and Kim Dy (0.52) of La Salle.

The Lady Bulldogs veteran, who saw action in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship and FIVB Women’s Club World Championship last year, also came in a close second in terms of attacking.

Morente had an attack efficiency of 41.34% followed by Santiago with 40.09%, Baron (38.33%), Ateneo first-year outside hittter Kat Tolentino (37.09%) and Dy (35.26%).

Meanwhile, Ateneo playmaker Jia Morado has the most number of service aces with an average of 0.76 per set followed by her La Salle rival and last year’s best setter Kim Fajardo at 0.61. Morente (0.60), Santiago (0.59) and UP setter Arielle Estranero (0.56) round out the top five.

Morado likewise bested Fajardo in the setting department. Morado had an average of 13.32 sets per frame, while Fajardo had 13.13. Coming in third was Estranero (11.52) followed by NU’s Jasmine Nabor (11.15) and Angelica Cayuna of FEU (7.74).

Kath Arado of University of the East and La Salle’s Dawn Macandili ruled the digging and receiving departments, respectively.

Arado tallied 6.63 digs per set to overshadow Macandili (5.48), Ria Duremdes of FEU (4.37), Gizelle Tan of Ateneo (4.04) and Pons of FEU (3.89).

Macandili, last year’s best digger and best receiver, showcased her efficiency in terms of reception with 49.15% as she led Arado (45.45%), Pons (43.71%), UP ace scorer Molde (36.17%) and teammate Justine Dorog (33.33%).

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