After months of anticipation, Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat will finally suit up as the Japanese V. League Division 1 2018-2019 Season starts today. While Filipino volleyball fans are thrilled to see them play, their teams will be going up against formidable opponents. Santiago-Manabat and the Toray Arrows will go up against the defending champion Hisamitsu Springs who had an undefeated run to last season’s title.
The Shingo Sakai-coached Springs can be considered a superteam because their roster is a who’s who in international volleyball. They have national team members Risa Shinnabe, Nana Iwasaka, and Yuki Ishii while Miyu Nagaoka is still under contract but is currently on loan to Imoco Volley of the Italian Serie A1 volleyball league. USA middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo is playing for the Springs as well. Other notable players include Rika Nomoto, Chizuru Koto, Mana Toe, Kotoki Zayasu, Arisa Inoue, and team captain Fumika Moriya.
Meanwhile, the Toray Arrows are not without firepower. They have Mari Horikawa and Ai Kurogo who have helped Japan finish sixth in the FIVB Women's Volleyball World Championship. They have also signed Azerbaijan’s Jana Kulan. The Arrows also have middle blockers Nanami Inoue and Kaho Ohno, Erina Ogawa, Shino Nakata, Misaki Shirai, and Wakaba Sugihara. The Arrows will face-off against the Springs at 2:10 pm Philippine Time as they will try to improve from their sixth-place finish last season.
Jaja Santiago’s Ageo Medics debut
On the other hand, Jaja Santiago and the Ageo Medics start their V.League Division 1 campaign against the Kurobe Aqua Fairies at 11 am Philippine Time today. The Medics finished one place below the Arrows last season with a 7-14 record and they see the UAAP Season 80 MVP as a boost to their offense. Santiago will team up with outside hitters Yuka Sato, Yuki Araki, and Miko Sasaki.
Also part of the Medics roster are middle blockers Ayaka Matsumoto, Mami Miura, Mako Shina, and team captain Yuko Maruyama. Koyomi Tominaga is also part of the Ageo Medics but is currently on loan to Lardini Filottrano in the Italian Serie A1
Meanwhile, the Kurobe Aqua Fairies are a newly-promoted team from the V.Challenge League to the V.League Division 1. They finished third in the 2017-2018 V.Challenge season with a 12-6 record thanks largely to team captain Saki Maruyama and Belgian middle blocker Freya Aelbrecht. Other notable Aqua Fairies include Sayo Masuda, Natsuno Kurami, Rina Hiratani, and Ai Konishi.
Regardless of how their debuts will turn out, Filipinos are mighty proud of Jaja and Dindin’s accomplishments. They have proven that Philippine volleyball is on the rise and has the capability of being at par with the world’s best.