'Starstruck' Dell Palomata thrilled to hold her own in face-off with idol Jaja Santiago
“Kinabahan ako syempre at saka alam ko naman na hindi ko kaya pero okay lang, at least try ko naman ang best ko na nanalo kami kahit papaano,” says Dell Palomata of Air Force on her first V-League duel against idol Jaja Santiago of NU. Jerome Ascano

AIR Force recruit Dell Palomata admitted getting starstruck during her faceoff with idol Jaja Santiago on Wednesday in the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Open Conference at The Arena in San Juan.

The 6-foot-3 middle blocker from Kalibo, Aklan said she has long waited for the chance to play against the National University stalwart who she has long admired.

“Opo, syempre (na-starstruck ako) idol na idol ko ‘yun eh,” said Palomata after her team’s 23-25, 25-21, 13-25, 25-23, 15-8, win over the Lady Bulldogs.

Despite the win, the soft-spoken Palomata admitted she still has a long way to go before she could really match up with Santiago.

“Kinabahan ako syempre at saka alam ko naman na hindi ko kaya pero okay lang, at least try ko naman ang best ko na nanalo kami kahit papaano,” she said.

“Kahit hindi ko kaya (tapatan si Jaja), binigay ko naman ang best ko,” she added.

[See Air Force stuns NU Lady Bulldogs in five sets to secure V-League playoff spot]

Santiago believes her Air Force counterpart has a lot more to offer.

“Ok naman siya, magaling nga siya eh,” said Santiago when told how much Palomata admires her. “Naintindihan ko naman siya doon sa sinabi niyang ‘yun, nothing against her.”

After missing Air Force’s game against Laoag, which the Jet Spikers lost, 14-25, 23-25, 23-25, on Saturday, Palomata returned to action and scored five points against Santiago and Co.

Palomata said she lacked preparation as she only arrived on Tuesday night from Bacolod.

“Kasi hindi ako nakapag-training kasi sa Bacolod pa ako galing,” she shared. “(Wala ako) noong laban namin ng Laoag kasi nga nag-process ako ng enrollment ko sa Bacolod.”

“Hindi ako nakapag-training ng maayos tapos nag-travel pa ako kagabi para lang dito sa laro, medyo nanibago ako kaya wala ako sa kundisyon,” she added.

Air Force will face Iriga next week before it clashed with league leader Pocari Sweat (4-0) at the end of the single round elimination.

With a 4-1 win-loss record, Palomata vowed to work on her game as the Jet Spikers hope to seriously contend for the title.

“Magte-training pa ako para lumakas pa ako sa laban,” she said. “(Improve pa) ang bilis ko sa court at ang communication sa setter.”

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