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NU gets inspiration boost, tips from Jaja Santiago

jaja santiago UAAP Season 86 volleyball NU LAdy Bulldogs

Former NU Lady Bulldogs Jen Nierva (left) and Jaja Santiago watching the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball Final Four game between NU and FEU at Araneta Coliseum.–MARLO CUETO/

MANILA, Philippines — Inspired by Jaja Santiago’s presence, the National University Lady Bulldogs overcame the tough challenge of Far Eastern University in the Final Four to advance to the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament.

Fresh from Japan, Santiago cheered her alma mater, which booked its third straight trip to the Finals after sweeping FEU, 25-13, 27-25, 25-15, on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

During NU’s celebration, the 6-foot-5 middle blocker celebrated with the current Lady Bulldogs and had a chance to speak with them.

HIGHLIGHTS: UAAP Season 86 volleyball Final Four May 8

Santiago was among the 13,000 fans with former Lady Bulldogs Jennifer Nierva, Cess Robles, and Joyme Cagande, who are also her Chery Tiggo teammates.

Bella Belen, who led the way with 21 points including five aces on top of 14 digs, received praise and tips from the Japan V.League mainstay as they take on University of Santo Tomas in the best-of-three finals starting on Saturday.

“She told us that she’s proud of our leadership and she can see that we’re excelling,” said Belen. “She gave us tips on what to do because we looked complacent in the second set. Good thing we didn’t give up in that set.”

Belen, the most recent NU MVP after Santiago, is offering their season to Santiago and the former Lady Bulldogs, who missed an opportunity to reach the UAAP finals.

READ: NU Lady Bulldogs oust FEU, face UST in UAAP volleyball Finals

“I was happy to see Ate Jaja and our old teammates watching the game. What we’re doing isn’t just for us, but also for all the former NU players who didn’t with a title,” she said. ” We made them our inspiration. We also got inspired with the NU crowd who went there during a school day to watch.”

Alyssa Solomon, who struggled with an 8-of-29 attacking clip, was also encouraged by Santiago before heading to the UAAP Finals.

“When Ate Ja stood beside me, she asked me about my hits. She advised me on what to do with my hand and my approach when I go for the hit,” said Solomon, who had nine points. “But my spikes are still lacking so I need to work on that.”

“I’m happy she was able to make timeto watch our moves and support us.”

Wit the Lady Bullsdogs moving closer to their title redemption, Belen reminded her teammates that the job’s not done.

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“We’re not going to stop just because we’ve made it to the Finals. We’re not done with our goal. We’re happy now, but we’re going back to training right away,” Belen said. “We’re going work double hard so we’re ready.”

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