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Santiago lays premium on mental grit in upcoming showdown versus La Salle

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Last season, the NU Lady Bulldogs assembled a formidable roster with the likes of the Santiago sisters, Myla Pablo, Aiko Urdas and Mina Aganon manning the helm. As expected, the team finished strong as they concluded the elimination round with a 12-2 record. Their second place finish also merited them with a twice-to-beat advantage.

In addition, Jaja Santiago was hailed as the UAAP Season 76 Rookie of the Year, while her sister Dindin was adjudged as the season’s Best Attacker. Despite having a very fruitful season and a very fulfilling crusade, National U, unfortunately, saw their season end after getting struck by the hands of the eventual champion, the Ateneo Lady Eagles.

Now, the Lady Bulldogs are once again back in the championship hunt after their triumph over the FEU Lady Tamaraws. And this time, they face the daunting task of taking down the highly-experienced, twice-to-beat advantaged, second-seeded De La Salle Lady Spikers.

“Masaya kami dahil nanalo kami dito sa do-or-die [playoff game] namin against FEU,” said Jaja Santiago. “Alam namin na ito ang game na magtataas ng morale namin [heading into our next matchup against La Salle].”

In their elimination round matchups, the Lady Bulldogs came up short in both outings against La Salle, but a lot of things have changed since then, as NU was still learning the rudiments of Coach Roger Gorayeb’s system.

In Gorayeb’s stint so far, NU finally realized its potential and has gone on a 6-2 rampage in the second round. Moreover, the likes of Santiago, Pablo, Rizza Mandapat, and Jorelle Singh have stepped up big time, which has made the Lady Bulldogs more lethal than ever before.

Facing La Salle still proves to be a deadly acid test for NU.

When asked on what they need to do to overcome such a tough foe, Santiago straightforwardly answered, “Gusto namin mawala sa kanila yung lakas ng loob nila. Gusto namin na angat ang sarili namin at kailangan namin sirain ang momentum nila kapag umaangat sila. Kailangan namin ng angas.”

The winner between the NU-DLSU bout will earn the right to face the Ateneo Lady Eagles in the championship round. National U needs to win twice to advance, while DLSU needs to win only once. The game will be held this Wednesday, 4pm, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

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