Brenda Castillo takes the Dominican Republic into the volleyball
LAUSANNE, Switzerland, December 20, 2020 - The first thing that
comes to mind when the Dominican Republic’s women’s national
team is brought up in conversation is the unbelievable firepower
the Caribbeans have always had, featuring some of the most
physical and powerful hitters in international volleyball over
For decades, defence wasn’t the key to the team’s playing
system, but that started to change just over a decade ago when
Brenda Castillo added her defensive talents to the ‘Reinas del
Caribe’ (The Queens of the Caribbean, in Spanish).
Castillo joined the team in 2007, when she was only 15, and her
role leading the team’s backcourt and giving the Dominicans an
additional strength in international events has earned her a
place in her home fans' hearts alongside the likes of scoring
machines Milagros Cabral and Bethania De La Cruz.
“She’s spectacular,” De La Cruz told Volleyball World. “Her
presence improved our team’s defensive system tremendously.
She’s a naturally gifted defender and for us just to watch her
digging, it’s inspiring and makes us improve too. I was already
with the team when she arrived and she’s always been the kind of
player that’s willing to do more than expected and go the extra
mile. She’s very confident and positive and that makes our lives
easier on the court.”
Given the dozens of individual awards Castillo has won in her
career, it’s safe to say De La Cruz is not the only one to think
highly of the libero. A great example comes from the 2009 FIVB
Volleyball U-20 World Championship. Aged 17, Castillo took the
Dominican Republic all the way to the silver and took home the
MVP, best libero, best digger and best receiver awards.
Just a year later, the 1.67m-tall Castillo wasn’t too far off
replicating that same level of performance at the senior level.
Playing for her home club Mirador, she was voted the best libero
of the 2010 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship. The
best, however, was yet to come.
Castillo headed into her first Olympics, the London 2012 Games,
as one of the key players of the Dominican team. And the
20-year-old star delivered exactly as expected, ending the
tournament as the best libero and also the most effective
defender, with an average of 6.1 digs per set.
“To win that award at such a young age and while competing with
such great athletes, it’s fabulous,” she said in an interview
following the tournament. “The Olympics were my goal and what I
worked for. We certainly could have done better as a team, but
receiving the best libero award is something I’ll never forget,
Even though the Dominicans failed to qualify for the Rio 2016
Games, Castillo continued her great run of form with the team in
the years leading to the event. She was the best libero of the
2013 FIVB Volleyball U-23 World Championship and of the 2015
FIVB Volleyball Women's World Cup, when she also took home the
best defender award. At the club level, she was voted the best
in her position during the 2013-2014 European Champions League
for Azerbaijan’s Rabita Baku.
The four years between the Rio and Tokyo Olympics, however, have
been a little different for Castillo. She played in Brazil and
the Dominican Republic between 2016 and 2018, but took a break
after that season to give birth to her first daughter, Breanna,
in February 2019.
She returned to the court in time to help the Dominican Republic
at the Tokyo Volleyball Qualification tournament in August, but
saw her team finish second behind hosts Brazil. The next week,
the Caribbeans went on to win gold at the 2019 Pan-American
A month later, she was involved in a serious car accident and
ended up breaking her left arm. She had surgery, but rushed to
return in time to be with the team in their last attempt to
qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, at a qualification tournament in
Santo Domingo. Castillo was back to her usual self, claiming the
best libero, best defender and best receiver awards on her way
to taking her country to another edition of the Games.
“I’ve had some players as pillars of the team since I took over
13 years ago, and Castillo is one of them,” said national team
head coach Marcos Kwiek. “She’s one of the best in the world in
her position, is extremely talented and gives us some
much-needed stability in receiving and defence. We have very
physical, aggressive players who need good receiving to be able
to play at their best and Castillo helps us immensely with that.
She’s a key player for us and is also one of the leaders of the
squad because of her passion and determination. She’s important
not only technically and tactically for us, but also
In a few months, in Tokyo, she is again likely to be a key
player for the Dominican Republican and will show that, yes,
they can hit the ball hard, but can also dig it pretty well too.