The NU Lady Bulldogs had a bumpy start to their Season 77 UAAP campaign, having to go up against last year’s finals teams, Ateneo and La Salle, in their first two games. Despite losing those games, NU seemed to regain their composure, taking down a feisty UP squad in five sets, and beating UE in three sets despite a sick Myla Pablo.
NU was unable to continue their streak, however, as they were knocked down by FEU in straight sets. We were able to catch up with Jaja Santiago, who led her team with 19 points in the loss.
NU led the first two sets, taking a 22-20 lead in the first, and holding a big 16-9 lead in the second, but FEU was able to rally and steal both sets, 25-23 and 26-24. Jaja had this to say about the first two sets:
“Nung first two sets wala kaming problema sa skills. Kaso ang kulang sa amin yung puso, yung tiwala sa isa’t-isa na kaya namin tapusin”
After taking the first two sets, FEU started to play inspired ball, delivering a 25-10 victory in the 3rd set. Jaja was asked if the team was frustrated after losing two close sets,
“Actually di naman ako frustrated, nasa isip ko nung 3rd set kaya pa habulin kahit alam ko yung iba nag-give up na. Sa akin gusto ko pa umangat kaso nga wala naman ako magagawa kung ako lang mag-isa. Siguro nung 3rd set na low morale kami.”
Jaja has been the most consistent NU player so far, leading the team in scoring in four out of their five games. She was also the only player to score in double-digits during their loss to FEU. Despite this, she said that all that she does in the court, she does for the team and for the school.
“Kahit ako lang gumagawa, wala sa akin yun. Ang iniisip ko lagi is for the team, for the school.”
After the loss, NU cannot afford to take a break. Jaja still remains optimistic about her team’s chances of making the playoffs despite the slow 2-3 start.
“Start sa Monday tuloy-tuloy ulit yung training namin. Conditioning training kasi sa morning, so baka dadagdagan ng coaches namin. Sa hapon ganun din dadagdagan din at maghihigpit sila. Alam kong makakarecover kami sa dadating na taon. Baka wala kaming Christmas break dahil dito. Tuloy-tuloy yung ensayo namin. Kaya po namin kung mag-titiwala kami sa isa’t-isa at sa sarili namin na kaya namin pumasok. Kasi yun naman talaga eh, kung tiwala ka at gusto mo sa sarili mong pumasok, papasok pa rin.”
Asked if she misses her older sister Dindin, and the pressure of living up to the expectations her sister left behind.
“Pag nakakafeel ng tao lagi ko sila namimiss, yung dalawa. Dati kaya naman namin, nung nawala sila, parang bigla nagkaganito na, ang laki ng kulang. Pero hindi ako napre-pressure, kaya ko rin naman yung ginagawa niya, except sa skills mas magaling siya haha. Sa leadership kasi simula nung high school naging leader na rin naman ako. Pero for me kasi sa loob ng court, hindi lang ikaw yung nag-iisang leader, kayong lahat leader. Bakit naman ako mapre-pressure eh nandun din naman yung iba para mag lift up saakin at sa isa’t-isa.”