Duke softball 2024 season preview

Cassidy Curd (middle) is one of Duke's headliners coming into the 2024 season.
Cassidy Curd (middle) is one of Duke's headliners coming into the 2024 season.


A couple decades down the line, Duke fans will look to this year as a pivotal one in the trajectory of the Blue Devils’ youngest varsity team to date. In its sixth season of existence last year, “Team Six” earned the right to host the program’s first NCAA Super Regional in a campaign that saw Duke establish itself as one of the better teams in the country. However, at the tournament, the Blue Devils still stood just short of the best. With the wind in its sails after a strong run in the ACC tournament, punctuated by freshman ace Cassidy Curd’s no-hitter, Duke welcomed Stanford to town, and was brought back down to earth in a two-game sweep. 

Despite the abrupt end to last season, it can still be seen as a monumental success. Head coach Marissa Young’s team ended up with a sterling 48-12 record and an outstanding 19-5 record in ACC play, one of the strongest softball conferences in the country. Key young pieces are back this season for the Blue Devils, including junior Ana Gold and the stellar sophomore trio of D’Auna Jennings, Aminah Vega and Curd. Gold, Jennings and Vega will be a trio of hitters who can go swing-for-swing with anyone in the country, and Curd will anchor the rotation once again. 

The factors of Duke being both a youthful team and a growing program make it somewhat of an unknown in the established collegiate softball scene, but this year can change that. If this team is able to break through to the Women’s College World Series, it will show the country — and perhaps more importantly — recruits, that this team has staying power. The young core will be here for a few more years, and the opportunity to play beside such a talented group should appeal to the nation’s top talents, who could, in turn, continue to grow this program into one of the nation’s finest. 

But as it has been for the past few years, its success this time around is vital, and that journey starts Thursday against Oklahoma. -Myles Powicki

New player to watch: Linh Le

Entering her first year at Duke, Le was a four-year letterwinner and league MVP during her high-school softball career. The Milpitas, Calif., native racked up nine home runs last year and batted at .577, the highest mark in the league. In 2021, she averaged an impressive 1.121 OPS. Not only is Le a formidable batter, she is a true utility player and can deliver in the infield. In Summer 2022, she was fielding at a .950 rate. It will be interesting to see how Le’s skill as a high school player translates to her collegiate career — but she will undoubtedly be a valuable piece for the Blue Devils this year.

In addition to Le, graduate transfer pitcher Dani Drogemuller is also a new player to keep an eye on. Although she is new to Duke, she is a seasoned ACC player. The Frankfort, Ill., native served as captain for Pittsburgh’s softball team, racking up 100-plus strikeouts in her 2022 and 2023 seasons.

Along with Drogemuller and Le, sophomore Aleyah Terrell and freshman Amiah Burgess are the other two newcomers for the team. -Lilah Gorfain

Returning players to watch: D’Auna Jennings and Cassidy Curd

The roster from last year has not changed drastically, so we can also expect the returning seasoned stars, namely senior pitcher Jala Wright and Gold, to continue to impress. 

Among the younger returning players, Jennings and Curd are essential for the Blue Devils’ success this season. Heading into their sophomore season, the duo were both named among the top-50 players on USA Softball’s 2024 Collegiate Player to Watch List. 

Jennings ranks sixth nationally in batting average (.462) and hits (80), and finished last season breaking Duke single-season records in both. Along with Gold and Vega, Jennings’ ability to deliver in the batter’s box will be thrilling to watch, as it has been thus far. With graduate student Deja Davis off the field and onto the sidelines as an assistant coach this year, the Houston native will need to continue to step up as a key Blue Devil batter. Last year, Jennings stole 21 bases, just three short of Davis’ all-time record.

In her first season, Curd was an invaluable pitcher for Duke, finishing with 159 strikeouts. When Duke was up against No. 9 Clemson, the Port St. Lucie, Fla. native became the first Duke rookie to throw a no-hitter in ACC play as well. With such an incredible season last year, it will be exciting to watch the sophomore pitcher continue to grow. -Gorfain

Most anticipated matchup: at Clemson, April 12-14

After winning 2-0 in the ACC tournament semifinals last year, the Blue Devils will once again face off against Clemson, this time during the regular season and on the Tigers’ home turf. The two teams tied for second in the ACC Preseason Coaches Poll, and both look poised to have impressive seasons in 2024. The matchups coming late in the conference slate will assuredly have pivotal implications for ACC tournament ranking as Duke looks towards recapturing the ACC title it won in 2021.

Clemson is not the only familiar face in store for the Blue Devils this spring. For the second year in a row, Duke will face off against No. 1 Oklahoma on opening day at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge, with the Sooners starting their campaign for a fourth-consecutive Women’s College World Series Championship. Duke will also play No. 18 Nebraska in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, kicking off its 2024 season against two challenging, ranked opponents. But come conference play, circle the date with the Tigers. -Elle Chavis

Best-case scenario

Boasting a star-studded veteran group and a handful of promising newcomers, the sky is the limit for this Duke squad. The Blue Devils return five of their top-six bats from last year’s campaign, with three having logged an OPS more than 1.0 on the season. The bullpen is headed by Curd, whose 1.65 ERA and team-high 18-3 record landed her preseason All-American honors ahead of opening day. Wright, Duke’s primary workhorse in 2023, will join Curd again this season in what may very well prove to be a devastating one-two punch for the Blue Devils. Put simply, the roster is complete on both sides of the ball. Although there are many in the ACC who will be jostling for the elusive top spot, Duke has as good a claim as any for that honor. It is therefore not unreasonable to predict a deep run in the ACC tournament for the Blue Devils, with similar success in the NCAA tournament. -Luke Rinaldi

Worst-case scenario

Duke has an underwhelming start in Puerto Vallarta and struggles to get their feet under it early. With a squad as talented as this one, it is difficult to predict anything other than a few dropped games in the early going. The Blue Devils have a very clear path to the NCAA tournament this season, with a seemingly front-heavy schedule that should allow them to build up steam heading into May. Even so, it is conceivable that the squad could stumble in the later goings of the ACC tournament, and possibly crash out around the regionals if things don’t come together for them. -Rinaldi


Myles Powicki: 43-11, 20-4 ACC, loss in NCAA first round

Elle Chavis: 47-7, 21-3 ACC, loss in NCAA Super Regional

Luke Rinaldi: 48-6, 21-3 ACC, loss in NCAA Super Regional

Lilah Gorfain: 45-9, 20-4 ACC, loss in NCAA Super Regional


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