National University Lady Bulldogs team captain Jaja Santiago has been a symbol of unfulfilled potential for the past two UAAP Seasons.
Hulking over her foes with her staggering six-foot-five frame, Santiago was expected to feature in every UAAP Finals since debuting in Season 76.
However, Santiago’s journey has been anything but smooth, as her Lady Bulldogs missed out on the last two UAAP Final Fours.
With a new coach in Babes Castillo and a stable lineup, Season 80 seems to be starting off ideally for Santiago’s final playing year.
Santiago poured in 27 points off 20 attacks, four blocks and three aces, and led her Lady Bulldogs past the defending champions De La Salle University Lady Spikers.
This has happened before in Santiago’s career; the Lady Bulldogs have started the past two seasons with convincing wins over perennial Finals contenders, before crumbling late in the season.
The 22-year-old was well aware of her team’s tendencies, and she seemed determined to fight off their near-inevitable collapse.
“Nakikita ko naman sa teammates ko ‘yung attitude na lalaban kami. Kailangan namin mag-push para maabot ‘yung goal namin,” said Santiago, who earned herself her third SMART Sports Player of the Day citation.
“‘Yung panalo namin sa La Salle is a big boost pero hindi kami doon titigil. Tuloy-tuloy kung anuman ‘yung na-establish namin sa training.”
With this in mind, the Lady Bulldogs are hoping to give their captain the send-off she deserves — a championship.