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Why Sophie Garner-MacKinnon Chose Duke

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(Photo courtesy of Sophie Garner-MacKinnon)

While pitching for the Rhode Island Thunder national team and Hall High School in Connecticut, Sophie Garner-MacKinnon has certainly made a name for herself on the mound over the last few years. And when NCAA rules allowed, her dream school came calling.

Back in September 2020, Garner-MacKinnon committed to Duke University to continue her academic and softball career. Now a high school senior, she saw her dream come true in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With one year left until she is set to join the Blue Devils, Softball America caught up with Garner-MacKinnon to discuss why Duke has always been her top choice, and how she made her dream become a reality.

Softball America: What was the final deciding factor in you choosing Duke?

Sophie Garner-MacKinnon: My decision to commit to Duke was less about a singular attribute, such as the campus—which is beautiful—but rather a collective of attributes. Those collective attributes were wanting to attend a high academic institution and play for a competitive program with a coaching staff that could support my continued development. Duke exceeded all of these needs and wishes. On top of all of this, the coaching staff and a few of the players and commits I have met could not have been more welcoming.

SA: Did you reach out to Duke or did they contact you? What was the recruiting process like?

SGM: I think it was somewhat mutual. I attended a few Duke camps over the last two years and had been writing to the coaches since my second year of 14U, updating them on my development and continuing to express my interest in Duke. Pre-Covid, Coach Young was able to see a few of our games. During Covid times, coaches were watching games remotely, so that was tough.

Since coaches were not able to talk to us due to the NCAA rules, I was not sure what to expect come September 1. You have dreams of how it might go—your future—and then the night before September 1 comes, you wonder what will happen. Happily and gratefully, I received a text message from Coach Young at midnight asking to set a time to talk.

The process—recruiting, in general—as you can imagine is fairly stressful. I think this year perhaps more so because of Covid. Coaches watching on video made recruiting more challenging and there were roster uncertainties given extended eligibility for current players.

SA: At what age did you know you wanted to play college softball?

SGM: Probably around my freshman year. At that point, I had just moved to a national travel team and I enjoyed the next level, competitive environment so much that I knew I wanted to continue in college.

SA: How much have travel and high school ball prepared you to become a college athlete?

SGM: A fair amount. My travel organization, RI Thunder, prepares us to become a college athlete by playing top competition and fostering a culture of accountability. High school ball stresses the importance of time management.

SA: What are you most excited for when you arrive at Duke?

SGM: I am most excited to start this next chapter of my life. I am eager to meet my teammates and start working with the coaches, but I am also excited to experience all that the university offers and the full college experience.

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