Jaja Santiago felt sense of fulfillment seeing NU win UAAP title

Jaja Santiago felt sense of fulfillment seeing NU win UAAP title

/ 03:35 PM May 18, 2024

Jaja Santiago NU Lady Bulldogs UAAP Season 86 women's volleyball title

Former NU star Jaja Santiago celebrates with the Lady Bulldogs, who claimed their second UAAP title in three years.–MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines — Despite not winning a UAAP title in her playing years for National University, Jaja Santiago felt as if she had finally won one after witnessing the Lady Bulldogs reclaim the glory in the Season 86 women’s volleyball Finals.

Santiago was part of the proud NU faithful among the ecstatic 22,515 crowd at Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday when the Lady Bulldogs completed a series sweep of the UST Tigresses in Game 2, 25-23, 23-25, 27-25, 25-18.

“Hindi man ako nakaranas ng championship sa UAAP sa NU. But seeing them and supporting them nakaka-proud parang nakapag-champion na rin ako,” Santiago told reporters.

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“Bumalik yung alaala ko nung nag last playing year ako sa NU. Kaya naiiyak ako kasi nakaka-proud talaga seeing them here in the championship,” she added.

READ: UAAP: Advice from Jaja Santiago spurs Alyssa Solomon on

It was her first time to watch NU in the finals after being in Japan when the Lady Bulldogs swept Season 84 to end a 65-year title drought. Santiago also didn’t see NU’s runner-up finish last year.

The former UAAP MVP trained with the Lady Bulldogs a day before Game 2, seeing the desire of the team to close out the championship series and complete its redemption tour.

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“When I trained with them I saw that they were tired but they really wanted to become champions. So when I hugged Alyssa (Solomon) after the game, I felt that their sacrifices and hard work were all worth it,” said the 6-foot-5 middle blocker in Filipino.

The 28-year-old Santiago motivated Solomon when she struggled in the Final Four match against Far Eastern University. Solomon went on to win Finals MVP, averaging 22.0 points in the title round.

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But it was just a reminder as Santiago knew that the player who idolized her would deliver.

“It’s not because of me, it’s her willingness to improve every game and her desire to lead the team to the championship. She did it and I’m proud because she looks up to me,” Santiago said. “I’m happy that she listened to my advice. She has the potential, she just needed a reminder for some parts of her game.”

READ: Jaja Santiago says Japanese citizenship bid ‘still in process’

The JT Marvelous Asian import is also proud of Bella Belen, who is now the only Lady Bulldog with multiple season MVPs after officially winning her second plum in three years on Wednesday.

“I’m so proud of Bella because she proved her leadership inside the court and showed how passionate she is in leading the team,” she said.

In Santiago’s five playing years with NU, she made it to the Final Four thrice but didn’t reach the Finals. She earned a couple of individual accolades, being the Season 76 Rookie of the Year, a four-time Best Attacker, a Season 79 Best Scorer, and Best Attacker, and won the MVP in her final playing year last 2018.

Although a championship was elusive in her collegiate stint, Santiago was a successful pro player, being a resident Asian import in Japan, where she won a V.Cup title with Ageo Medics and reached the Finals of the V.League last season with her new club JT Marvelous on top of earning the Best Attacker, Best Blocker, and mythical selection.

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The Filipino middle blocker, PVL’s first pro champion and Conference and Finals MVP with Chery Tiggo three years ago, is in the process of getting Japanese citizenship and already trained with the Japan national pool last month.

Santiago is grateful to the NU community, expressing that up until now they are her inspiration every time she enters the court.

TAGS: Jaja Santiago, NU Lady Bulldogs

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