Filipino volleyball player Alyja “Jaja” Santiago has become the first-ever Filipino athlete to win a volleyball title outside of the Philippines.

Santiago helped lead her team, the Saitama Ageo Medics, to victory in the final match of the Japan Volleyball Cup on Sunday (March 28) at the Ota City General Gymnasium in Tokyo. 

The 25-year-old middle blocker contributed a whopping 11 points to a 26-24, 25-20, 25-21, 25-17 worn-out conquest of the NEC Red Rockets to attain the league’s gold medal. 

Santiago’s team gained full momentum in the tournament after sweeping all of their Division 1 matches. And in the semi-finals, they managed to outdo JT Marvelous in a close fight with 25-21, 25-22, 18-25, 18-25, 15-13 to occupy a position in the Japanese volleyball league’s final two.

In acknowledgment of her new achievement, the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) offered its congratulations to the female volleyball phenom in a letter sent by President Ramon “Tats” Suzara.

“On behalf of the entire leadership of the PNVF, I extend my warmest and most heartfelt congratulations for your achievement,” Suzara said. 

“Para sa bayan,” the six-foot-five Filipina said.

In last year’s Japan V Cup, Santiago and the Saitama Ageo Medics managed to enter the top three but failed to win the gold, earning the bronze medal instead. This is the first time any Filipino volleyball player landed a medal in any international league volleyball campaign.

Santiago is due to return to the Philippines on March 31 for the country’s Premier Volleyball League campaign. 

Before joining the Japan League in 2018, Santiago, who hails from Cavite, was a player for the Philippine National Women’s Volleyball Team and the National University Lady Bull Dogs. 

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