With Jaja Santiago at the helm, National University muscled its way past Arellano University, 25-17, 25-16, 25-23, Wednesday night and moved within a win of the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference finals at FilOil Flying V Centre.
Already the most dominant force in club and collegiate volleyball, the 6-foot-5 Santiago threw her weight around, dumping 24 points to give the Lady Bulldogs a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three semifinals series against the Lady Chiefs.
The scary thing was that for Santiago, it was just another day in the office.
“We didn’t do anything new. It was still the same plays, but we executed well today,” said Santiago in Filipino.
Adamson also kept its record in the tournament spotless as the Lady Falcons outlasted Far Eastern University, 21-25, 25-22, 20-25, 25-14, 15-8, to inch closer to a finals berth.
The Lady Falcons have made a wonderful turnaround from their dismal UAAP season and are on the verge of a potential title showdown with Santiago and National U.
A veteran of top-level international tournaments, Santiago provided a menacing presence at the net that clearly intimidated the intrepid Lady Chiefs all match long.
“Maybe we just played more aggressive, but the important thing is that we followed our coach’s game plan,” added Santiago, who is on her last year with NU.
It was the sixth straight win for the Lady Bulldogs, having swept their way in the elimination phase of the tournament that serves as tuneup for the collegiate season.
Arellano, the NCAA defending champion, was simply outgunned—out-attacked 16-6 in second set alone—with normally effective scorers Jovielyn Prado, Andrea Marzan and Regine Arocha stymied by NU’s height and heft.
But the Lady Chiefs still put up a brave front, especially in the third set which saw them take an 18-17 lead.
However, Santiago came through with clutch hits from the open spiker position.
“It’s very important for the players to translate the game plan on the court,” said NU coach Babes Castillo. “I’m very happy because the players responded well.”