When the final lineup of the country’s under-23 squad was released, one of the notable players not on the list was former National University Lady Bulldog and current ARMY and Petron Blaze spiker Dindin Santiago.
The older sister of current PH U23 middle blocker Jaja Santiago and towering at 6’2, Dindin adds a whole new dimension to the Philippine frontline given her versatile play and her knack for thunderous attacks.
While contented with the group he has now, Philippine Women’s Under-23 Volleyball head coach Roger Gorayeb admitted that the older Santiago’s presence alone can help them fill a void. Particularly, shoring up their size disadvantage against a lengthy Iran team that they recently faced, in order for them to fair better against Asia’s finest.
“Kung nakapaglaro lang ang sister niya, then we can field two formidable front players. Jaja is 6’5 and her sister is 6’2,” Gorayeb said. “[Pero] okay na sa amin itong grupo na ito because they play with big hearts.”
Facing a more experienced Iran team, the Philippines had long stretches wherein their shorter spikers had a hard time penetrating the solid Iran defense. Setting aside the team’s taller attackers, the Philippines also relied heavily on petite spikers like Ella De Jesus and Gretchel Soltones to lighten the burden for the country’s main guns in Alyssa Valdez and Jaja Santiago.
With the obvious shortage in height, Iran’s net defense was a tough nut to crack for them and a lot of miscues caught up with the Philippines.
“It’s understandable for us coaches because this is a young team. This is their first time to compete internationally against a strong and tall team like Iran,” Gorayeb ended. “We need to practice more for a longer period of time, and I hope we can have stronger and more experienced players in this kind of competition.”
“We were expecting the girls to fight their hearts out and they took a gallant stand. When you have a big heart going into a big game, there is nothing impossible. Iyon ang hinahanap namin sa kanila kanina. We are happy for the girls. [Even though we only had] three weeks of preparation, this team has big potential. They’re a very young and inexperienced team but these mistakes will make big changes for us.”
The next game for the Philippine team will be today, 2:30 pm, against Kazakhstan at the Philsports Arena, Pasig City.