DURHAM, N.C. – Duke head softball coach Marissa Young announced on Tuesday the addition of Laura Valentino to the Blue Devil coaching staff. Valentino will serve as an assistant coach with primary responsibilities including infield play, catching and offensive strategy.
“We are thrilled to announce the hiring of Laura Valentino,” said Young. “Laura is a seasoned assistant coach with unmatched youthful energy and passion for the game, teaching and recruiting. I've had the pleasure of working with Laura on several occasions over the last three years and am impressed with her knowledge, work ethic, professionalism and ability to build relationships. Laura played for and has been mentored by a Hall of Fame coach in Bill Edwards at Hofstra University and her strengths of offensive and defensive strategy and fundamentals with infield and catching will be huge assets to our staff.”
Valentino joins the Duke program following three seasons at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. While with the 49ers, her primary responsibilities included offensive and defensive development and strategy with an emphasis on catching.
In 2017, UNC Charlotte won 30 games – reaching the 30-win plateau for the second straight season – including the program's first Conference USA Tournament victory since 2001. Valentino helped mentor shortstop Haley Pace, who earned all-conference and all-region honors on the field as well as first team CoSIDA Academic All-America accolades after establishing school single-season records for batting average (.433), slugging percentage (.487), runs scored (53) and home runs (15) while matching the 49er mark for hits (71).
In 2016, the 49ers achieved their first 30-win season since 2010 and received votes in the NFCA Top 25 poll for the first time in school history. The squad's marked improvement was highlighted by a .295 team batting average, up from .257 in 2015, while freshman outfielder Emma Ocker earned first team All-Conference USA and C-USA All Freshman Team accolades. In addition, Pace earned NFCA All-Region honors as well as the Conference USA Spirit of Service Award while pitcher Lexi Betancourt claimed an all-league citation and became UNC Charlotte's all-time wins leader.
Valentino joined the UNC Charlotte staff after three years as an assistant coach at Fairfield University, where she aided with all facets of offense, defense, pitching and catching along with recruiting and administrative duties. At Fairfield, Valentino helped the Stags to two MAAC regular season championships and three conference tournament appearances with a pair of runner-up finishes. Additionally, she coached four 2014 first team All-MAAC selections including the MAAC Pitcher of the Year and MAAC Player of the Year.
Prior to her time at Fairfield, Valentino was a four-year letterwinner with the Hofstra University softball team as a designated player, infielder and catcher and was a part of the two winningest seasons in program history (45 wins in both 2008 & 2010). Valentino started 84 games over her final two seasons, helped NFCA All-America pitcher Olivia Galati establish school single-season records for wins (29), shutouts (17) and strikeouts (348) and capped her career by earning a spot on the NFCA Scholar-Athlete Team and garnering the Hofstra University Outstanding Senior Athlete award.
A native of Smithtown, N.Y., and member of the Smithtown High School Hall of Fame, Valentino graduated from Hofstra in 2011 with a degree in physical education and later earned a master's degree in special education from Fairfield in 2013.
Duke announced its plan to add softball in 2013 and hired Young as the program's first head coach in July, 2015. Duke's new softball stadium, located on East Campus, is scheduled to be completed this fall as the Blue Devils begin varsity competition in the spring of 2018.