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Castillo, Dominican Republic's rising star

The Dominican Republic's Brenda Castillo ranked second in digs in the tournament's first round with an average of 3.84 per set

Osaka, Japan, Nov. 4, 2010 - She is often the smallest player on the court, but the Dominican Republic's Brenda Castillo plays a big role each time she steps out for her country.

The 167cm libero has displayed some amazing skills during the first round in Pool D at the 2010 FIVB Women's World Championship during the past week. The 18-year-old ranked second in digs in the tournament with an average of 3.84 per set after the opening round.

It was not just the number of digs she made that was impressive, but the manner in which she accomplished them. Displaying the flexibility and agility of a gymnast, Castillo was all over the court, keeping the ball in play repeatedly when it appeared there was no hope.

"I'm sad that we didn't meet expectations here," the Santo Domingo native said after Wednesday's victory over Canada, which left the Dominican Republic with 1-4 a record. "But it's been a great experience. I have learned a lot."

Though it was her first senior World Championship, Castillo has excelled on the big stage before. She was the Most Valuable Player at the 2008 FIVB World Junior Championship in Mexico, where the Dominicans finished second. She was also named top libero, defender and receiver in a memorable performance at that event.

When asked if she occasionally envied her taller teammates and wished she could unleash a spike once in a while, the bubbly Castillo laughed while considering the question. "Sometimes I wish I could be their height," she said. "But I'm happy with who I am and my role."

Castillo, who grew up as one of five sisters, says she looks up to Dominican team captain Milagros Cruz, who just competed in her fourth World Championship. "I have long admired her," she said. "We are fortunate to have a chance to play with and learn from her."

It is not hard to envision a time, not too far in the future, when Castillo herself becomes a leader in her team. With her ability and experience at such a tender age, she is likely to be an integral part of the Dominican team for many years to come.

Castillo, who was encouraged to take up Volleyball at 10 by one of her sisters, says playing libero does require specific qualities. "You have to be fast and have good concentration," she noted. "You must work hard and display good actions. You almost have to be a little crazy to want to fly around the court like you need to."

The attractive Castillo, who looks like she could be a model, says she does not lack recognition in a country where baseball rules. "I get a lot of fan letters and support back home. It's great."

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