Duke Is Making A Name For Itself In College Softball
The Duke Blue Devils took the NCAA softball world by storm during the shortened 2020 campaign.
In the program's third year in existence, the Blue Devils finished the abbreviated season with a 23-4 record, which put them on pace for their best season yet, as they eyed the NCAA Tournament.
And Duke got right to it in 2020, coming out of the gate with a 4-1 record in the opening weekend of the season at the UCF Invitational.
"I really believe the momentum for us started down at UCF," Duke head coach Marissa Young told Softball America. "The opening weekend, we lost to them. It was a tough game, and then the next day we came back to beat them in another close game. That was the moment our kids knew they had the experience, talent and composure to come out on top."
After a perfect 5-0 stretch at home in Durham, N.C. following their opening weekend, the Blue Devils geared up for their biggest test of the campaign: a matchup against Texas, who finished as Softball America's No. 1 team for the shortened 2020 season. The game was deadlocked at zero until the fourth inning when Caroline Jacobsen scored Raine Wilson with a single that gave the Blue Devils a 1-0 lead they would not relinquish.
"Going into the game, we wanted to win," said Jacobsen, who was Softball America's 2020 Most Improved Player after the abbreviated season. "You can't look at yourself as the underdog in games like that, even though Texas is a really good team. (Miranda) Elish is a great pitcher, but we knew what we were capable of."
Jacobsen attributes Duke's 2020 success to the team's ability to understand the culture and beliefs of the program.
"When everyone got to campus in the fall of 2019, it felt different," Jacobsen said. "Our mantra was 'Build the House' because our foundation was set from the past two years. But this year, everyone was given a role to make the house run. Everyone bought into that and understood what they brought to the table."
That mentality also extended into the Duke coaching staff in 2020. Young believes the additions of assistant coaches Josh Bloomer and Jessica Bracamonte were also paramount for the Blue Devils' success this year.
"In a new program, it is all about building that culture and tradition," Young said. "As a staff, we made our motto tangible in so many ways that it became a part of our daily life. It wasn't just a thing on the wall. We really meshed well as a staff and the kids bought into that process."
Although the 2020 season was cut short, the Blue Devils are looking forward to coming back next year to continue what they started this spring. After finishing with one of the best records in college softball in 2020, Duke is confident in its ability to repeat its success next season and beyond.
"We have put the pieces together," Jacobsen said, "so why not us?"