College Sports

Marissa Young named Duke’s first softball coach

Marissa Young
Marissa Young Duke Photography

Duke has the University of North Carolina to thank for its new softball coach.

When longtime Tar Heels coach Donna Papa heard last year that the Blue Devils were starting a program, she told her assistant coach, Marissa Young, that she would support her going after that job.

“Little did we know that it would be a year later,” Young, 33, said Thursday, wearing a Duke polo, at her introductory press conference. “So it came about quicker than we expected.”

The Blue Devils won’t field their first team until the 2017-18 season, but athletic director Kevin White announced Young’s hiring Wednesday. Softball is the first varsity sport that Duke has added since 1998, when women’s rowing began. Now Young has more than two years to prepare the program for its first season.

And there is much to be done. Everything, in fact.

“I didn’t sleep for two days after I accepted the position because my mind just kept going on and on about all the little things it will entail,” she said.

At the top of the list for Young is recruiting, and she is taking her first trip next week, to California for the Premiere Girls Fastpitch national championships. It will be her first chance to build a list of potential recruits. Duke plans on using all 12 scholarships the NCAA allots for softball, and Young will have some flexibility in how she initially distributes them.

Ideally, she said, there will be some players on campus a year before the program starts, whether through transfers or class of 2016 grads willing to just practice their first year on campus. And as far as selling players on a program that doesn’t yet exist, Young isn’t worried.

“The groundwork has already been laid with the success and the tradition here at Duke,” she said. “There are a lot of kids out there that already love the idea of playing and getting a degree from a place like Duke.

“My job is actually going to be hard in turning kids away rather than trying to find the ones that want to be here.”

Young is plenty familiar with major college softball. As a pitcher at Michigan, she was a three-time All-American, the Big Ten pitcher of the year (2002) and Player of the year (2003) in her final season. She left Michigan as the program’s all-time strikeout leader (927). The Wolverines advanced to the Women’s College World Series in 2001 and 2002.

She also has head coaching experience, turning NAIA Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Mich., from a 2-20 program to a team with a 23-23 record, the school’s second-highest win total, in three years from 2008-11. Young spent the next two years at Eastern Michigan before coming to North Carolina for the 2014 season. The Tar Heels went 37-16 last year and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

Young said it will be hard this spring when she’s not on the field working with a team. The goal is to start construction for an on-campus softball stadium in 2016 with a completion date at the end of the summer in 2017. At that point, Duke will become the 12th ACC school to field a softball team (only Wake Forest, Miami and Clemson do not).

And there there is another line on the to-do list for Young: switching the shade of blue most dominant in her wardrobe.

“It will happen very quickly, yes,” she said with a smile.

Laura Keeley: 919-829-4556, @laurakeeley