NATIONAL University standout Jaja Santiago remained undaunted even as she enters an unfamiliar territory in the import-laden Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix.
The 6-foot-4 spiker scored 12 points in her PSL debut for Foton, which lost to a Petron side bannered by Jaja’s elder sister Dindin Santiago. The score was 25-21, 20-25, 13-25, 25-12, 9-15.
But the bubbly internationalist is not backing down from the new challenge, be it from among the locals or from the towering and talented imports currently seeing action in the commercial league.
“For me siguro malaking challenge (makalaban ang imports), pero nagco-compete rin kami sa international (competitions),” said the former UAAP Rookie of the Year.
“So parang ‘yung pressure or ‘yung challenge na nararamdaman ko bumababa naman kasi, sabi nga nila, kung magpapa-intimidate ka sa mas matatangkad sayo or mas malalakas sayo, bababa lang ‘yung laro mo, mawawala lang ‘yung laro mo so kailangan itaas mo, I mean, i-level mo ‘yung sarili mo sa kanila pag nakalaban mo sila,” she stressed.
The league is scheduled to run until early December, while the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament won’t start until February next year, giving Jaja enough time to rest and recover.
At the same time, she feels her exposure in the club league will help her stand out in the collegiate level.
“Syempre malaking tulong ‘yung PSL, malaking tulong ‘yung experience na makukuha ko dito before UAAP,” she said. “Syempre iba naman ‘yung caliber nila, iba ‘yung laro nila, so alam kong malaki ang makukuha kong experience sa PSL and sa imports.”
Aside from gaining experience, Jaja is also excited going up anew against her idol and elder sister Dindin.
“Siguro nasanay na (ako) dahil pangalawang liga na magkalaban kami, pero andon pa rin ang excitement na makalaban siya at kaba,” she said.
Prior to the start of the tournament NU coach Roger Gorayeb confirmed Jaja’s inclusion in Foton’s roster did not have any clearance from the school.
The incoming third year player however, clarified she was undecided at the time as she had other commitments then only to finally make up her mind and play in the PSL.
“Actually kaya hindi ako maka-commit sa Foton kasi nga parang meron ding Shakey’s V-League, tapos ito (PSL), tapos meron din ako sa UAAP beach volleyball so nag-iisip ako kung saan ako magfo-focus,” she said.
“Tutal nakalaro naman ng Shakey’s last season gusto ko naman ma-try ano pang experience ang pwede kong makuha pag sumali ako dito,” Jaja added.