DINDIN Santiago was in tears and lost for words, moments after National University's campaign in the UAAP women's volleyball tournament came to a shocking end on Saturday afternoon.
Arguably the country's best volleyball player today, Santiago said she never thought the twice-to-beat Lady Bulldogs would bow out at this stage - the reason she didn't know how to react when they were bundled out by the Ateneo Lady Eagles in four thrilling sets.
"Inisip ko na mananalo kami, hindi ko inisip na huli na ito, kaya masakit," said the 20-year-old after the 22-25, 25-8, 19-25, 22-25 loss to the Lady Eagles in the stepladder Final Four. "Hindi ko po alam kung ano ang nangyari, (kaya) hindi ko po alam ano sasabihin."
Instead of preparing for a title showdown with unbeaten De La Salle in the final, the 6-foot-2 team captain now was left to dwell on the what-could-have-beens as her attempt to bring a first-ever UAAP title to NU once again fell short in her final year with the school.
Being the team's spearhead, Santiago said she blamed herself for the letdown, more so since it was her horrific error that set the stage for Lady Eagle Alyssa Valdez's game-clinching point.
Santiago, who had 19 points in the game, brought NU back from 19-23 down to within a point in the fourth set with a kill and two service winners.
But at 22-23, her next serve sailed so wide it nearly found the first row of the Big Dome stands.
"Sobra na-frustrate ako kasi alam ko ako ang inaasahan nila (teammates ko) eh kaya masakit sa akin," said Santiago. "Syempre (sinisisi ko ang sarli ko) kasi lalo sa fourth set, ako nga naghabol sa service, ako rin (pala) magpapatalo."
Despite the loss, Santiago, who played two years for the Lady Bulldogs after transferring from University of Santo Tomas, found solace in the fact that she was able to turn NU into a force to be reckoned with in women's volleyball in the short time she spent with the team.
Now, Santiago said she is leaving it up to her younger sister, the equally prodigious Jaja, to complete the unfinished business for NU.
"Ako nakapagpabago ng NU, dati nasa seventh, nag-fifth, ngayon nasa third," she said. "Sana, si Jaja magtapos ng naumpisahan ko."