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Jaja eager to end NU stint in blaze of glory

By Jerome Lagunzad

She’s been touted as the future of Philippine volleyball, but National University star Jaja Santiago would rather focus on the present, aware that she still has some unfinished business to do with her collegiate career.

After all, the towering Lady Bulldogs middle blocker has yet to claim what seems to be an elusive UAAP crown, something that’s been missing on her trophy case filled with individual awards and team titles from semi-pro and amateur leagues.

That’s why the 6-foot-5 Santiago, 22, is expected to give it all on her fifth and final year with top title contender NU in the UAAP Season 80 women’s volleyball tournament that gets going tomorrow at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“Ngayong last playing year ko, hindi ako papayag na hindi namin makukuha ‘yun (UAAP title). Hindi ako papayag na ga-graduate ako na wala kaming makukuha (na title),” said the league’s reigning Best Scorer, Best Attacker and Best Blocker awardee.

Out of the Final Four picture for the past two years, the Lady Bulldogs, now under coach Babes Castillo, are capable enough to end their barren spell as they will also have the likes of setter Jasmine Nabor, middle blocker Risa Sato, utility Aika Urdas and returning libero Bia General at their disposal.

Also out to make some serious noise are the Lady Tamaraws of Far Eastern University, who have been a consistent Final Four entrant in the last three years.

But they will have to do it without reliable hitter Rose Marie Vargas, whose return to the FEU camp was scuttled by a ruptured left achilles tendon which will sideline her for the next six months.

Without Vargas, a one-time Best Scorer awardee back in Season 74, more will be expected by second-year coach George Pascua on key returnees, captain Bernadeth Pons, opposite hitter Toni Rose Basas, and outside hitters Jerrili Malabanan and Heather Guino-o.