WOONSOCKET — As she watched one classmate after another gleefully boast about their college plans, Briana Castro kept wondering when exactly the ship she desired was going to drop anchor.
A senior softball and hockey standout at Mount St. Charles, Castro would seek out her physics teacher, Kristen Couture, for counsel and reassurance that everything would work out. She would also keep repeating in her mind a saying from her parents, Fabio and Wendy: “If it’s meant to be, then clearly it’s meant to be.”
“I was nervous because everyone else in my class was ‘Oh, I know where I’m going to college. Where are you going?’” Castro shared. “I didn’t know, so that kind of put pressure on me a little bit to make a decision.”
Castro desired to play softball at the University of Rhode Island. In order to move the needle on such a scenario, she needed to first get accepted. Good news came in the form of a letter that arrived at her Cranston home on May 1, which then got the ball rolling on the next business at hand.
Certainly no stranger to URI head softball coach Erin Layton, Castro fired off an email that she was officially part of the university’s Class of 2018. In no time, a partial athletic scholarship was drawn up and presented for Castro to review.
At long last, Castro’s ship had arrived. It goes without saying that signing the precious Letter of Intent produced a wave of different emotions. There’s prestige in knowing that your dream of becoming a Division I student-athlete has been fulfilled.
Perhaps more importantly, there’s a sigh of relief in knowing that you officially have a destination of higher learning to attend come the fall. With only a few weeks left before graduation, a huge weight has been lifted from Castro’s shoulders, the kind that makes conversing with her fellow Mountie 12th graders about college decision.
“I cannot be happier. Things are finally falling into place,” stated a beaming Castro this past Friday. “The opportunity to play at a D-I school is something I’ve always wanted. Now I just have to use what I’ve been given and work hard.
“Luckily, everything played out by itself,” Castro added while seated a table in a conference room surrounded by her parents, Ms. Couture, and MSC head softball coach Cliff Matthews.
A versatile sort who has lined up at every infield position except one – pitcher – during her MSC varsity softball career, Castro figures to blend in just fine at Rhody. As a senior captain, she’s holding down the fort as the Mounties’ primary shortstop after suiting up at catcher her junior year. As an 11th grader, she received Third Team All-Division I honors from the Rhode Island Softball Coaches’ Association.
“We are happy to have Bri on the team. She will challenge for time as a corner and middle infielder and behind the plate,” stated URI’s Layton in an email to The Call. “She is a solid athlete and having Rhode Island student-athletes on the team is important to our staff.”
According to Matthews, Castro’s top positions are catcher and third base.
“She has what I call a very high softball IQ. What that means is that she does the right thing at the right time and she’s not afraid to push the envelope. Plus she’s highly skilled,” the MSC mentor explained. “I recall a practice during her sophomore year when she played third base and challenged me to hit the ball by her. She was determined not to let it get by.”
Her awareness and skill set aside, Matthews believes that Castro’s best attribute is her desire to compete. That perhaps can be traced to her passion for hockey, one that began the first time she laced up her skates as a three-year-old and continued right through her high-school career as a first-line forward.
“She loves the heat of battle,” Matthews pointed out.
“Hockey definitely makes my competitiveness spike. I love to win and hate to lose,” Castro said. “My old softball travel coach stressed the word compete all the time. When you step on the field, you know you have to outplay the opposition and try to outplay the person on the other team who’s playing the same position.”
When it came time to decide whether she wanted to play softball or hockey at the collegiate ranks, Castro elected to go the softball route.
“The question is what sport you’re better at, which everyone asks me,” said Castro. “I have heart for softball. It’s where my passion is.”
She succeeded in garnering interest from the URI coaching staff as a member of the Providence-based New England Phoenix Gold travel team. The program has seen several area high-school softball standouts parlay their diamond success with the list including Emily and Olivia Hendricks. The twins starred at Mount St. Charles before taking their talents to the Kingston-based campus.
“When I started travel ball my sophomore year, URI was at the top of my list. I knew throughout the whole (recruiting) process that they were going to stay with me,” Castro said. “I played with the Hendricks twins my sophomore year with the Phoenix and during my freshman and sophomore years at Mount. Olivia [presently a sophomore at Rhody] is one of my best friends and I’m excited to be playing again with her.”
Castro, who was also considering softball options at Lafayette (Pa.) College and Suffolk (Mass.) University, prides herself on being a diligent worker. Nothing is going to change just because her college choice has officially pulled up to the docks.
“I’m not at all guaranteed a starting position. I know I have to work hard to get a chance to play,” she said.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03