Veteran goalkeeper Castillo returns to Griffins ahead of weekend home matches vs. MRU, Victoria

Bianca Castillo will bring a veteran presence to MacEwan's goalkeeper position group (Armando Tura photo).
Bianca Castillo will bring a veteran presence to MacEwan's goalkeeper position group (Armando Tura photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Eight years have lapsed between incredible rookie seasons.

Emily Burns had five wins for MacEwan in 2015.

Sabrina Alexander just broke that record with her sixth of 2023 when the Griffins women's soccer team beat Calgary last Sunday.

In between those eras is another goalkeeper who has her stamp on the biggest moment in program history.

Bianca Castillo, who played behind Burns in her first two seasons, was unforgettably in net for the decisive save in a shootout that delivered a U SPORTS national championship to MacEwan in 2021.

Now, she will partner with Alexander after returning to the team this week, giving the 6-0-0 Griffins a boost as they quest to get back to nationals.

MacEwan will host Mount Royal on Saturday (2:30 p.m.) and Victoria on Sunday (12 p.m., both Clarke Stadium, Canada West TV).

"I'm a big believer that everything happens for a reason," said MacEwan head coach Dean Cordeiro. "What a cool story to be able to add Bianca back into the mix with our keeper group. It means a lot. She's a savvy veteran, she's experience it all, she won a national championship and she's been with this program for many years. 

"Whenever you can add someone of her calibre who's accomplished as much as she has throughout her career, it's always a nice addition to the team, for sure."

Bianca Castillo poses with family after being feted on Senior Day 2022. Planning to graduate from the program last year, she had another year of eligibility remaining and is back to try for another national title (Joel Kingston photo).

Thought to be graduated and moving onto the next phase of her life, Castillo had a year of eligibility remaining and was able to get into classes at MacEwan to be able to play for the Griffins again.

"Definitely a shock to the system, for sure, basically because I'm coming in a month later," said Castillo, who has been playing with Cordeiro's club team Northwest United. "It was hard to take on this opportunity, just because I thought there was no way of me coming back. 

"As I kept saying to Dean, if it's meant to be, it's meant to be, and I guess it was meant to be that I come back and play my last year."

Despite her obvious talent on the field, what Castillo adds is a presence to the locker-room. 

She's the one from the 2021 national championship video stopping Trinity Western star Katherine Harvey on a dark November night at Cape Breton University before leaving an indelible impression by pausing, unsure if that was the game-winning stop or not, and then realizing it was, tossing the ball and running to join a wild Griffins celebration at midfield.

She's not coming into to replace Alexander, but rather to form one of the top tandems in the conference as the Griffins quest to return to nationals this season.

"Sabrina's such a talented goalkeeper," said Cordeiro. "We're very happy to have her and she's on fire right now. That's awesome to see. With the addition of Bianca, it just fortifies our goalkeeper room. We're going to need everyone, so it's exciting when you can add a veteran. 

"I think she'll be an awesome role model for Sabrina as well. They play club together, so there's a relationship there. Those types of partnerships are always super important within the group."

Castillo is excited for that part of their relationship to continue.

"It's definitely grown a little bit from when I first met her a couple years ago," she said. "Coming into MacEwan and being a mentor to her and helping her get through the ups and downs of being a varsity athlete is kind of what I'm here for. 

"Dean always has Big Sisters, Little Sisters. I've been a Big Sister for a couple years now. I love passing down my experience to them and trying to be as positive and keep that GK Union strong."