Philippine volleyball

Jaja Santiago, Saitama endure contrasting five-set wars in V. League return

JR Isaga
Jaja Santiago, Saitama endure contrasting five-set wars in V. League return

ENDURANCE TEST. Jaja Santiago (#3) endures two straight five-set games with the Saitama Ageo Medics

Jaja Santiago's Instagram page

Bryan Bagunas and the Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler also go down quietly in consecutive sweep losses, while Marck Espejo's games for FC Tokyo get canceled

MANILA, Philippines – After more than a month of inactivity in the Japan V. League due to COVID protocols, the Saitama Ageo Medics returned on Saturday, February 19, but fell short in a stinging five-set marathon, 25-21, 27-29, 25-18, 18-25, 25-27 to the Hitachi Rivale.

Filipina star blocker Jaja Santiago contributed across the board with 16 points off 12 attacks, 2 blocks, and 2 aces in a nail-biting contest that lasted two hours and 41 minutes.

Import Lorenne Teixeira paced the loss with a game-high 29 markers while Fuyumi Hawi Okumu Oba helped lift Hitachi to an 8-13 record with 28 points.

The Rivale have since gone up to 9-13 off a four-set win against the Himeji Victorina on Sunday, February 20.

Saitama then made sure to atone for their Saturday heartbreak, and once again went the distance in their Sunday bounce-back win against the Denso Airybees, 25-27, 25-19, 25-17, 21-25, 16-14.

This time, Santiago got way more active on defense, and finished with 24 points off 16 attacks, a game-high 7 blocks, and an ace to help seal the win and the 11-7 record.

Teixeira again led the team in scoring, this time in a winning effort, with 28 markers while Minami Nakamoto and Yuki Hyodo chipped in 17 points apiece in the tough loss for the 13-7 Airybees.

In a deviation from the usual league schedule pattern, Santiago and the rest of the Ageo Medics now have a Wednesday, February 23, makeup game against the 13-5 NEC Red Rockets before their usual weekend slate on February 26 and 27.

Over at the men’s division, the Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler failed to win a set over the weekend as the third-ranked Toray Arrows cruised to back-to-back sweeps on Saturday, 25-23, 25-21, 25-22, and Sunday, 25-21, 25-22, 25-12.

National team mainstay Bryan Bagunas powered Saturday’s loss with 15 points off 12 attacks, and 3 blocks, before chipping in just 9 markers, all off attacks, in Sunday’s defeat.

Now holding a 5-21 record in the ninth spot of the ten-team field, Bagunas and Oita will have back-to-back chances to upset the 13-11 JTEKT Stings next weekend.

Finally, Marck Espejo and FC Tokyo sat out last Saturday and Sunday after their matches against the 15-7 Wolfdogs Nagoya got canceled due to health protocols. Their next chance to return will be next weekend against the 10-16 JT Thunders Hiroshima. –

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