It was perhaps the happiest loss Jaja Santiago ever experienced.
Every volleyball fan in the know of how star-studded Eczacibasi Vitra’s lineup is in the 2016 Women’s Club World Championship knew that the odds were stacked against the PSL F2 Logisctis Manila team Friday night.
But with the Turkish team opting not to field in its powerhouse starters like Tijana Boscovic, Rachel Adams, Jordan Larson and Thaisa Daher (in preparation for their big battle with Vakifbank Istanbul), the PH delegation saw a window of opportunity and snatched a set from the defending champion.
Beaming from ear to ear, Santiago tells the press: “Hindi ko ma-explain ‘yung happiness na naramdaman namin nung nanalo kami ng third set kasi defending champion ‘yun tapos naka-isa kami.”
Already staring defeat in the eye in the third frame, Santiago rotated to the back and dished multiple service aces that gave a jolt to the confidence of her teammates and the crowd in attendance.
“Hindi ko in-expect na ace. Ang inisip ko lang maipasok ko ‘yung service ko at tsaka nasa right target ‘yung serve ko. Akala ko nga po outside eh,” she said, talking about her game-changing heavy serves.
The PSL crew eventually folded in the fourth set but the loss—which sends the team to the classification matches—became insignificant to the fans who only saw the heart and passion of the Manila squad.
In the same game, PSL head coach Moro Branislav also gave a special glimpse of the future of Philippine volleyball when he fielded in an All-Filipino roster in the second frame.
“Actually kahapon, pinag-uusapan namin na: ‘Ano kaya kung All-Filipino ‘yung nasa loob? Laban tayo.’ Tapos nagulat kami kanina bago matapos ang first set, mag All-Filipino daw sa second set so warmup kaming lahat,” shared the 6-foot-5 middle blocker who scored 9 points.
“Nung pinasok na kaming lahat, na-boost na ‘yung morale ng lahat,” she added. “Sobrang saya kasi ‘yun na ‘yung chance para mapakita ng Pilipino ‘yung talento naming lahat. Kaya pag nakakapuntos kami talagang super celebrate kaming lahat eh.”
Santiago and the rest of her teammates will square off with Hisamitsu Springs Saturday afternoon at the MOA Arena. —By Mac Dionisio