Jaja Santiago’s tryout is happening at a bigger stage

It was clear from the beginning that the recent National Team tryouts were for expansion purposes. Meaning, there is a core that’s already in place. Still, this should not stop coaches Shaq Delos Santos, Kung Fu Reyes, and Brian Esquivel from subjecting more volleyball talents under a litmus test. Therefore, a total revamp will not happen. But at least the mentors will have the happy problem of assessing whether a newcomer deserves a call back.

This doesn’t mean that if a player who represented the country in the 2018 Asian Games or the AVC Cup will be kicked out of the team if they were not able to attend the tryouts. Following that thought, then Jaja Santiago and even her older sister Dindin Santiago-Manabat should get the boot, right? It doesn’t work that way.

Logistically, it would be challenging to fly both of them to the Philippines just to attend the two-day tryouts because their V.League teams would have to get another working visa for them if they leave Japan. Should that happen, they could miss some games which can have huge implications for their teams especially in the younger Santiago’s case.

Yet if you’re still clamoring for a tryout, just look at what they’ve done in one of the best professional volleyball leagues in Asia so far.

Dindin Santiago-Manabat might not be playing heavy minutes, but the learnings she has gained from her training sessions with the Toray Arrows are valuable information that can help improve our technique. Meanwhile, Jaja Santiago is playing a major role in the Ageo Medics’ improvement. From a 7-14 record last season, the Medics are now at 9-7 with four games left. It’s hard to miss out her contributions in the team’s resurgence especially when she has been named Player of the Game twice.

The UAAP Season 80 women’s volleyball MVP is also backing up her performance with impressive numbers. As of January 26, she is third in attack success rate behind Foluke Akinradewo and Sinead Jack at 52.3%. She is also 16th in total points with 180, 19th in attack points with 137, and 11th in kill blocks with 28. Alyja Daphne is also fourth in service aces with 15.

Bottom line, her tryout didn’t happen at the Arellano University School of Law Gymnasium. Rather, it started in November when she started to play professionally in a foreign country and turned heads with each game passing. Her tryout for the National Team started when she was holding her ground against the likes of Akinradewo, Jack, Brankica Mihajlovic, and Jana Kulan who have represented their nations in the 2018 FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship. Her audition happened when the lights were bright, the stakes are high, and the competition being some of the best in the world.

With achievements such as these, would you really leave them out of the National Team? They will return to the country by either May or June depending on when their season ends. If everything falls into plan, they will be just in time for training camp in preparation for the Southeast Asian Games. They would be a big boost to our hopes of taking a medal home.