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Upcoming SEA Games tilt presents another stepping stone for Jaja Santiago

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For the past months, 6-foot-5 middle blocker Jaja Santiago saw a massive improvement in her overall game. She led the National University Lady Bulldogs, coached by no other than national team head coach Roger Gorayeb, to a third place finish in the UAAP Season 77 Women’s Volleyball Tournament and she was also part of the Philippine U23 Women’s Volleyball Team that placed 7th during the 2015 Asian Women’s U23 Volleyball Championship held in Pasig City.

Now, Santiago once again nailed another impressive feat as she was hailed as Finals MVP and played a pivotal role in the PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters’ first ever V-League title.

Una po hindi ko expected na ako ang magiging Finals MVP. Actually niloloko ko nga po sila na Aleona Denise [Santiago-Mabat] po dapat iyon so malapit lang sa pangalan ko na Alyja,” Santiago jokingly said after winning the Finals MVP plum. “Di ko talaga siya expected pero natutuwa ako na nakuha ko ang Finals MVP and narealize ko na hindi pa doon nagtatapos iyong mga dream ko. So alam ko na marami pa akong kailangan ma-improve.”

With the first conference of the V-League now over, Santiago now sets her sights on bigger things as she prepares to return in international stage as part of the Philippine women’s volleyball national team that shall compete in the upcoming 28th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games which will be held in Singapore this coming June 10 to June 16, 2015.

Equipped with an ounce of international experience and knowledge thanks to her U23 campaign, Santiago hopes that she can make a difference for the team and tow the country to greater heights.

“Actually iyong U23 [volleyball championship] sobrang laki ng tulong niya sa akin kasi iba ang kalidad ng mga players doon so matututo ka talaga kung paano kumilos ng mabilis, magblock, magspike at magserve,” Santiago added. “So malaking tulong ang binigay ng U23. Sinabi ko rin sa sarili ko na mag all-out na ako at ibibigay ko ang lahat at wala na akong iisipin pa na iba.”

The Philippines is currently situated in Group B of the SEA Games tournament along with Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. Rounding up the other competing countries are the likes of host country Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar.

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