BACARRA, ILOCOS NORTE — Chery Tiggo star Jaja Santiago admitted that she had a hard time returning to full shape entering the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference.
Before leaving for Japan to suit up for the Ageo Medics, Santiago already endured a tough time conditioning herself for competition due to the limits brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Actually, mahirap din kasi talagang naga-adjust sa lahat,” said Santiago moments after Chery Tiggo’s 3-0 sweep of PLDT.
“Nung umalis ako dito pandemic, hirap na hirap ako ibalik ‘yung kundisyon ng katawan ko.”
Still, her unwavering love for the sport remained strong.
So, despite the numerous challenges, Santiago was able to find her groove in the V.League. She even led Ageo to the inaugural Japan V.League Division 1 V Cup title — her first in her very young international career.
When she finally made her return on Philippine soil, Santiago once again struggled to maintain shape. This was mainly due to the lack of competition brought once again by the pandemic.
But just like before, Santiago’s unconditional love for volleyball prevailed.
“Nung bumalik ako sa Japan, nagsimula bumalik ulit. Tapos pagbalik ko dito, pandemic pa rin. Walang training, hirap kami.
“Kumbaga ang tagal ko talagang ‘di naglaro sa team namin,. Sobrang hirap pero nandun pa rin ‘yung kailangan kong gawin yung best ko. Kailangan kong mag-adjust agad and ito ‘yung sport ko eh. Ito’ yung love ko, so kailangan talaga gawin ko ‘yung lahat para maibalik ko ‘yung laro ko dito sa Chery,” explained the 6-foot-5 middle blocker.
Santiago showed no rust in her return, finishing with 11 points on seven attacks and four aces. She led the Crossovers’ historic win against the Power Hitters, 25-20, 25-17, 25-6, at the Socio-Civic Cultural Center here.
With the win, Chery Tiggo embedded its name in history books after scoring the first victory in the first-ever professional volleyball league here in the Philippines.
The Crossovers look to sustain their fine form when they take on Cignal on Monday at 6:00 PM.