Battle of Two Towers: Dindin versus Jaja

In volleyball, players related to each other are not news anymore.

Whether by genetics or influence, the country saw a good number of sibling acts playing the same sport and, more often than not, same team. There were the Carolino sisters, Cruz siblings and Laure sisters to name a few.

Today, Dindin and Jaja Santiago are arguably the deadliest sister combo.

Just thinking of either one of them brings shivers to their opponents. Why not? Not only Dindin and Jaja tower over 6-feet, but they are also deadly in their own way.

Together, they have won championships for National University in the then Shakey’s V-League and Foton Tornadoes in Philippine Superliga. They have also donned the national colors in the international stage.

Both are multi-awarded Best Spikers. Both are MVPs. Both are high-caliber.

With them playing side by side, it was like trying to solve a crossword and realizing there’s no correct answer. Of course, Philippines is very much blessed having them.

One, though, couldn’t help but wonder – and debate – who’s the better sister?

But it’s hard to compare two players, even if their blood-related, who are years apart. So we should compare their best forms on the same age. We’ll talk about the UAAP 76 Dindin and the UAAP 80 Jaja – both 21 years old.

Dindin, during this age in 2014, was the definition of middle blocker.

The older Santiago started her collegiate as a champion right away with UST Golden Tigresses. She would’ve been the perfect diagonal to Maika Ortiz, but that didn’t happen.

Due to an offer she just couldn’t turn down, Dindin packed her bags and left for National University. She sacrificed two years of her UAAP career for her family.

In the end, it was worth it.

During those years when she flew under the radar, unknown to most, a star was being born. When Dindin set foot on the UAAP court again, she immediately changed the game.

She led NU to its first Final Four appearance in decades. How did she do it? Simple: she was young, extremely talented and fierce. Of course, Myla Pablo, Kai Nepomuceno and Jen Reyes played big roles.

During off season, she and Jaja teamed up to give NU its first Shakey’s V-league collegiate conference title. Come season 76, Dindin was even deadlier.

Her sister, meanwhile, took a different route.

In season 76, Jaja, a rookie then, is already a promise. Standing at 6-feet-4, she was even taller than her sister.

After Dindin graduated, Jaja inherited the duty to carry the offensive cudgels for NU. Her exceptional spike reach, of course, is one of the key why she was awarded four-time Best Spiker and one-time UAAP MVP.

Though always falling short of a UAAP title, Jaja garnered well-deserved accolades from left to right both in collegiate and semi-pro ranks.

She got quicker. Her blockings got better. Her attacks got sharper. Unlike Dindin, we were able to watch Jaja’s growth from a lanky spiker to a full-time most sought middle blocker.

So, now, here’s the comparison.

Their kills are equally strong. But in terms of attack efficiency, Jaja has had more sucess than Dindin. No doubt about it.

Dindin, though, has the edge in variation. While Jaja shows flashes of lethal slide attacks, Dindin is a natural in this.

The older Santiago also has more direction than Jaja’s, which were usually targeting Zones 5 and 6.

Jaja, meanwhile, edges her sister in blocking. Though both 6-footers, they have been criticized at some point for their blockings.

But Jaja’s attack reading skill was polished in the past two years. She was even awarded Best Blocker in UAAP.

The beauty in them is that they can hit from the wings and from the middle. They could wreak havoc from all sides and corner of the court.

Both are versatile, but Dindin wins this one. Why? Simple: she has better floor defense.

If you play outside or opposite hitter, you must hone your defensive skills on the floor, too. Dindin cannot only defend the floor, but she also has a decent service reception, something that Jaja is yet to show.

In terms of international success, Jaja had more of those.

In fact, her superb skills has been catching the eyes of foreign coaches for years and she has been receiving luxurious offers from the likes of UCLA and Thailand’s Bangkok Glass.

Few months from now, Jaja will be bringing her talents to Japan – a milestone for her and the country. But it feels like we haven’t seen Dindin’s best yet.

Dindin missed major tournaments like FIVB Women’s Club World Championship 2016 and SEA Games 2017 because she gave birth and was recovering from knee injury during those big events, respectively.

She could easily earn a spot. Her two-year absence, though, paved way for Jaja’s development.

Instead of trying to determine who is better between Dindin and Jaja – a difficult to answer question, really – the question should be: Who is better than Dindin AND Jaja combined?

Probably no one.

If there is a player who can match the 22-year old Dindin’s firepower, it’s her sister, Jaja, and vice versa. Only Dindin can beat Jaja, and only Jaja can beat Dindin.

Everyone knows that they are stronger when they play on the same side of the court.

Apparently, a family that plays together wins together. And that’s what these two are good at: at winning.

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