Jaja Santiago came in from a losing stand in an Asian club tournament to fire 25 hits and power National U past University of the Philippines, 21-25, 25-10, 27-25, 25-21, yesterday as the Lady Bulldogs clinched the first finals berth in the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Collegiate Conference at the Philsports Arena in Pasig on Wednesday.
The 6-5 Santiago proved in top shape, hardly slowed down by the rigors of playing back-to-back games in one day, pumping in 19 kills, the last ending the 1:29-hour encounter that capped the Lady Bulldogs’ sweep of the Lady Maroons in their best-of-three Final Four series.
“I just wanted to help the team make it bake to the finals,” said Santiago while stressing the need to improve on their teamwork to complete a back-to-back championship in the mid-season conference of the league sponsored by Shakey’s.
NU swept Ateneo in sudden death to rule this conference last year.
She made it in time, changed suits but didn’t start then spearheaded the Lady Bulldogs’ fightback with a sweep of the next three. Santiago also came through with four blocks.
Veteran Jorelle Singh backed Santiago with 16 points, including 12 kills and three aces, while Aiko Urdas chipped in 14 points and Joy Doromal and Risa Sato combined for 15 hits.
The Lady Bulldogs, who held off the Lady Maroons, 25-23, 25-23, 23-25, 26-24, in the opener of their playoff in the league backed by Mikasa as official ball and Accel as official outfitter, also pounced on their rivals’ poor service reception as they punched in 15 aces.
Diana Carlos and Nicole Tiamzon shot 14 points apiece for UP, which also drew 11 markers from Isa Molde. But the Lady Maroons failed to sustain their own fightback in the third and fourth sets.
Playmaker Jasmine Nabor also dished out a solid game, producing 49 of NU’s excellent sets, including a series of quick hits for Santiago, while adding three hits.