Breezy, 25-minute trip from Binan to Pasig enough to reinvigorate Jaja Santiago
Thanks to escorts from the Highway Patrol Group, Jaja Santiago arrived just in time for the 4 p.m. game between NU and UP.

JAJA Santiago bared that her surprisingly quick trip from Binan, Laguna to Pasig on Wednesday was all the rest she needed to power National University back to the Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference Finals. 

Santiago said the 25-minute travel time from her game in the AVC Asian Women's Club Championship at the Alonte Sports Arena to PhilSports Arena restored her energy for their semifinal match against University of the Philippines. 

Thanks to escorts from the Highway Patrol Group, the NU skipper arrived just in time for the 4 p.m. duel but checked in only when Lady Bulldogs were trailing 18-13 in the opening set.

Still, Santiago powered NU past the Lady Maroons, 21-25, 25-10, 27-25, 25-21 to book a return trip to the finals of the Collegiate Conference. 

"Tinaas ko pa nga yung paa ko kanina sa front seat para lang ma-relax legs ko at hindi mag-cramps sa game sa V-League. Yung byaheng yun, nakatulong sakin para maka-recover," said Santiago, who finished with a game-high 25 points including four blocks. 

Santiago added that she already conditioned her mind to overcome fatigue, knowing that her teammates needed her in the important game. 

"After ng game namin, dumiretso na talaga ako dito. Wala namang pagod kasi nung nasa sasakyan pa lang ako, sinasabi ko na sa sarili ko na kailangan maka-recover ako at makapaglaro ako ng maayos dahil kailangan ako ng team," she said. 

"Sabi ni coach (Edjet Mabbayad), habang bumabyahe ako kanina, 'Anak sige, relax ka lang dyan wag mo i-pressure sarili mo. Kung hindi ka makaabot okay lang,’" Santiago added.

With NU booking the first finals berth, Santiago is proud to make it back to the grand stage of the mid-season conference but preferred to have a longer layoff before taking on the winner between FEU and Ateneo.

"Happy ako nakaabot ako sa finals uli. Sinasabihan ko lang mga teammates ko na kailangan lang naming maging consistent. Alam ko makukuha rin namin yan," she said.

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"Mas gusto ko ma-extend ng Game Three (FEU-Ateneo match). Kasi para makapagpahinga rin. Kailangan ko rin para mas maganda kundisyon ng katawan ko," Santiago added with a laugh. 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @janbballesteros