One of the key players that shined bright in the Philippines’ debut in the 2015 Asian U23 Women’s Volleyball Championship was 6-foot-5 middle blocker Jaja Santiago.
In their tough four-set, 22-25, 22-25, 25-19, 25-20, defeat at the hands of a taller and more experienced Iran team, Santiago was the second-best scorer of her squad as she racked up 13 points and 1 block.
“Sobrang hirap din, kasi matatangkad din sila. Hindi lang isa ‘yung matangkad sa kanila, halos lahat sila. Mahirap sila padaanan ng bola kasi parang payong na payong nila ang bola namin,” Santiago said when asked about facing the towering Iran team.
The Philippines may have lost the battle, but the current National University Lady Bulldog admitted that the country will have a better chance of winning if she goes all-out and impose her will further. Given that she is the tallest player on the squad, her size will always be an automatic advantage.
“Hindi [ako satisfied in the game against Iran], alam ko kasi kulang at alam kong kailangan pa nila ako lalo sa laro ko kanina,” Santiago added. “Kasi yun nga, ako ‘yung pinakamalaki sa team namin kaya inaasahan nila ako na gumawa kasi matataas ang kalaban namin.”
Moreover, even PH U23 team head coach Roger Gorayeb had the same notion for the 19-year old lady. Being a rare mix of height and power, Gorayeb sees a bright future for Santiago in the years to come.
“She’s a big factor for this team. Her height is very intimidating for every opponent for that matter. But her age and maturity is not that big enough for her to dominate the frontline,” Gorayeb added. “Maybe for the next one or two years to come, she will be a big factor for us.”
With their game against Iran now a thing of the past, Santiago and the rest of the Philippine team must now set their sights as they fight for their lives today against a more powerful Kazakhstan squad, 2:30 pm, at the Philsports Arena.
“Sana magawa ko ang best ko at iyong laro ko talaga. Mas malakas ang Kazakhstan kaysa sa Iran,” Santiago ended. “Dapat magkaroon kami ng teamwork uli sa defense, offense at blocking. Sana gumana lahat.”