by Nica Rhiana Hanopol
After sweeping all their opponents in the 2018 PSL Invitationals, national team player Jaja Santiago bared that the team is now close to 60 to 70 percent ready for the upcoming Asian Games.
“Sa tingin ko, mga 60-70% pa lang yung performance ng team namin… kasi hindi pa kami totally naglalaro na nandyan lahat yung 14. Iba-iba yung setter, iba-iba yung naglalaro sa loob ng court,” Santiago, who top scored in three of their matches, told Fox Sports PH after their match against the Smart Army Giga Hitters at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Despite limited chances to train with a complete line-up, Santiago, who capped off the tune-up matches with 12 points, said that she and the rest of the team are not feeling any pressure.
“Hindi ko nafifeel yung pressure, more on excitement and enjoy. Kahit yung past three games, two games, nag-eenjoy lang talaga kami sa loob ng court,” the former NU Lady Bulldog shared. “Parang free ka lang talaga. Comfortable kami sa isa’t isa”.
Only nine players were able to suit up against the Giga Hitters; Rebecca Rivera, Mylene Paat, Maika Ortiz, Denden Lazaro, Dindin Manabat, CJ Rosario, MJ Phillips, and captain Aby Maraño. With limited national team players in the Invitationals, Santiago has been switching roles as middle blocker and opposite hitter.
“Pineprepare ko lang yung sa lahat ng mga possible na mangyari. Siguro, pineprepare ko rin yung sarili ko kasi di ba ginagawa nila akong middle and opposite, yun nagma-mindset na ako na ganun yung mangyayari sa’kin,” the 6-foot-6 standout said.
As expected, the National Team still managed to make quick work of the Giga Hitters, 25-16, 25-17, 25-17, who is led by former NT podium finisher Ging Balse-Pabayo. Santiago also stressed that being pooled with international threats like Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam is a huge opportunity for local players.
“Sabi ko nga more on opportunity talaga yung tinitignan ko, more than struggle. Hunger pa to learn more lalo na international yung league,” she said. “Maraming batang nadidiscover ngayon so kailangan hindi ka rin titigil na mag-improve”.