Jaja Santiago earned the UAAP Press Corps Player of the Week from February 7-11 after leading the National University Lady Bulldogs to an impressive 3-0 start in the Season 80 Women’s Volleyball tournament.
The graduating 6-foot-5 spiker did not only put up stellar numbers in their past three games, she also proved that she is the heart and soul of the Lady Bulldogs.
Santiago erupted with 26 points built on 20 kills, four blocks and two service aces to defy the comeback of the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles in five sets, 25-19, 25-19, 20-25, 12-25, 15-7, last Wednesday. She then unloaded 23 points to carry the Lady Bulldogs to their third straight win and avoid the upset ax of the University of the East Lady Warriors, 25-15, 18-25, 25-22, 25-19, on Sunday.
The team captain of NU is now the second-best scorer, averaging 21.7 points in three games, just two points shy of Cherry Rondina from the University of Santo Tomas, who averages 23.3 points per game.
She bested this week’s candidates Rondina, Jema Galanza of the Adamson University, and Michelle Cobb of the De La Salle University for the weekly nod given by sportswriters covering the league.
For NU head coach Babes Castillo, Santiago is not only giving the impressive numbers the team needs, she has also stepped up when it matters most.
“I think their captain responded right on the dot on what the situation is asking for,” said Castillo on Santiago.
“The team has to go with the captain. You listen to your captain. Kung ano sinabi ng captain, go with your captain. That’s it.”
The Lady Bulldogs squandered a 2-0 set lead to Ateneo and lost a set to UE,, but through Santiago’s unstoppable talent and infectious leadership, her team regained their confidence and escaped the trouble in both games.
“Sinabi ko lang sa teammates ko is, ‘yun nga, sabi ni coach, kailangan natin ibalik ‘yung tatlo, which is ‘yung deserved respect for every point, stay 100 percent whistle to whistle and communication sa loob ng court,” said Santiago, who is number one in the spiking department with a total of 49 kills, and second in blocking, with 0.92 average by set behind La Salle’s reigning Most Valuable Player Majoy Baron (1.13 average by set).