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Why Duke's First-Years Chose The Blue Devils

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(Photo from Duke Softball Twitter)

After getting knocked out of postseason play last spring in super regionals by UCLA, Duke reloaded with five talented first-year newcomers who the Blue Devils hope will help them reach the Women's College World Series soon.

For the 2023 season, Duke's "Team 6" welcomed two pitchers, a catcher, a powerful utility player and a speedy outfielder to make up one of the top recruiting classes in the nation.

Duke junior pitcher and Softball America intern Jala Wright spoke with the Blue Devils' newcomers about why they chose to take their talents to Duke for their college softball careers.

Read below to learn what led them to Durham, N.C.

Sophie Garner-MacKinnon, Pitcher

The West Hartford, Conn. native plans to pursue public policy at Duke, while adding another steady arm to the pitching rotation.

"I chose Duke University because the rigorous academic and athletics were unlike anywhere else," Garner-MacKinnon said. "My recruiting process was relatively short, as I knew on September 8, 2020 that Duke was where I wanted to be."

Cassidy Curd, Pitcher

The family atmosphere Duke head coach Marissa Young has created within the program sold Curd—who also intends to study public policy—on the Blue Devils. The two-way player knows how to get it done on both sides of the field, and is ready to step up however her team needs her.

"I knew there was no other school that could cultivate the experience I wanted to have in college," Curd said. "When I received the call from Coach Young during my recruiting process, it was a no-brainer."

Kairi Rodriguez, Catcher

Rodriguez, who is still undecided on a major, is known to have a cannon of an arm to shut down the run game. At the plate, she possesses the power to hit both gap shots and the long ball.

"Duke University held the combination of a great education, along with a competitive softball program, sealing the deal to commit," Rodriguez said. "The beautiful campus was just the icing on the cake. My recruiting process was exciting, but quick. The coaching staff made the process easy by being specific and straightforward. They answered all my questions and assured me of the impact I could make by choosing Duke Softball."

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Aminah Vega, Utility

Vega's recruiting process was difficult, according to her, until she took her official visit to Duke. But Vega, a sports psychology major, intends to make a big impact on the Blue Devils' program, hoping to eventually have her name etched in its record book.

"The moment I stepped on campus, I realized all along Duke was my home away from home," Vega said. "The pace at which the program is making history helped the decision become even easier."

D’Auna Jennings, Outfield

The speedy Jennings is a pre-med student who comes from Houston and is not intimidated by being far away from home for college. Unfortunately for her, COVID-19 hit prior to what was supposed to be her commitment travel ball season. College coaches were not allowed to come to games in person during that time and could only view players through livestreams.

"Coach Young made the offer to me, and I committed before even visiting Duke’s campus," Jennings said. "I never doubted my decision, and I'm not worried about facing the cold winters, but I'm nervous about cultivating time management."

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