ARMED with a championship in Japan, Jaja Santiago is the first to temper expectations from her Premier Volleyball League team Chery Tiggo.
“Galing tayo sa pandemic. One year, no training, no tournament. So I don’t wanna expect or give them a high expectation,” said Santiago in an online interview a couple of months ago.
“Siyempre ang pinakagusto ko na mangyari for PVL bubble is makalaro kami lahat, walang injury, walang masakit,” the 6-foot-5 middle blocker added.
All eyes will be on Santiago’s first stint in the country since powering her Japanese club Ageo Medics to a V.Cup gold medal last March when the Crossovers take on PLDT in the first match of an explosive tripleheader today at the PCV Socio-Civic & Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.
The 1 p.m. clash will mark the PVL’s first game in 20 months. The now-pro league saw its 2020 season scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is conducting the Open Conference in a bubble environment.
Although Santiago and her older sister Dindin Santiago-Manabat leading the charge together with Mylene Paat, Maika Ortiz, Shaya Adorador, Jasmine Nabor and libero Buding Duremdes, Chery Tiggo will miss sisters Eya and EJ Laure, and Jannine Navarro in the bubble due to various reasons.
To fill in a roster spot, the Crossovers inserted assistant coach Tina Salak, a 44-year old veteran playmaker and former national team stalwart, in the line-up.
Still, Chery Tiggo remains as one of the legitimate contenders for the PVL championship with Santiago, the first Filipino volleyball player to win a gold medal overseas.
Like the Crossovers, the Power Hitters are one of the four new teams in the league who are hoping to make an immediate impact.
Unlike other teams which has stacked attacking rotation, PLDT has to do with Isa Molde, Aiko Urdas and Shola Alvarez, with setter Rhea Dimaculangan doing playmaking chores.
Aside from Santiago’s much-awaited PVL debut, the spotlight will be also on Creamline, which will begin its title-retention against Sta. Lucia at 7 p.m., right after Perlas and Cignal HD collide at 4 p.m.
Erstwhile collegiate rivals Alyssa Valdez and Mika Reyes cross paths as the Cool Smashers, who won the Open Conference via 20-0 sweep in 2019, will be tested this early by the PVL debutants Lady Realtors.
(PCV Socio-Civic & Cultural Center, Bacarra)
1 p.m. – Chery Tiggo vs PLDT
4 p.m. – Perlas vs Cignal HD
7 p.m. – Sta. Lucia vs Creamline