Jaja Santiago flying to PH a champion, and team owner looks forward to star putting Chery on top of PVL
Jaja Santiago, after taking Japan by storm, is ready to spark her home professional club to a title romp, too.
The newly crowned queen in the Japanese Volleyball Cup, in fact, is taking the first available flight out of Tokyo.
“We are proud of what she has become; her victory is also our victory,” Rommel Sytin, team owner of Santiago’s local club Chery Tiggo, told the Inquirer on Wednesday. Sytin had watched Santiago spread her wings while with the Pro Crossovers, starting when the club was still known as Foton.
It was with Sytin’s club that Santiago gained the attention of Saitama Ageo Medics, who signed her as reinforcement for the team’s bid in the Japanese league.
“We are happy for her achievement and her vital role in Ageo team,” Sytin said. “That’s her strong character, which is to be the leader inside and outside the court.”
Sytin expects the 6-foot-5 Santiago to showcase the same traits when she beefs up the Pro Crossovers in the coming Premier Volleyball League (PVL) slated later next month.
Santiago has been honing her skills in Japan since 2019. Last year, while leagues were closed here because of the pandemic, Santiago helped the Ageo Medics clinch the bronze medal in the V-League Division 1.
On Sunday, Santiago smashed home 11 points to help Saitama beat NEC (26-24, 20-25, 25-21, 25-17) for the V-Cup.
The experience Santiago gained in Japan, according to Sytin, is invaluable for the Crossovers in their pro debut in the PVL. And with all the stars of volleyball finally gathered under one tournament, Sytin is excited to see Santiago try to establish herself as the best in the lot—and, along the way, return the Sytin franchise back to the pinnacle of local volleyball.
“We got back-to-back championships during her first two years with us,” said Sytin. “I can say that we are ready for the gold [in the] next tournament.”
As Foton Tornadoes, the franchise won 2014 and 2015 Philippine SuperLiga Grand Prix. Now that the franchise is joining the PVL, along with several other SuperLiga squads, there is the sense that a true club champion will finally emerge, something that was always a debated topic when the volleyball scene was split into two separate leagues.
And having Santiago certainly puts Chery Tiggo in the mix of clubs favored to take the inaugural professional volleyball crown of the country.
“I think the competition this time will be more intense,” Ricky Palou, who heads PVL organizer Sports Vision, had earlier said. “In the past there were two leagues and the teams could not play with each other.”