With a father who serves in the United States Coast Guard, Lauren Duff had become used to sailing from location to location, as he pursued his career. The family’s journey took her from her birthplace in Hawaii to Tennessee, then Texas, then Washington and ultimately to Virginia. Three years ago, she dropped her anchor in Blacksburg, became a part of the fabric of Virginia Tech, and entrenched herself in the Virginia Tech softball program. Though undeniably successful both on and off the field, she endured some rough seas, and she decided to turn her compass away from softball, preferring to chase other aspirations. Yet Duff is back at her home port these days. After a year hiatus, the senior from Chesapeake, Virginia returned to the squad, and through the first 22 games, she is hitting .316. She also continues to handle Tech’s pitching staff masterfully—witness the group’s 2.55 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 140 innings. “Yes and no,” Duff said when asked if she missed softball last spring. “The team didn’t do that great last year … I did go to a couple of games. I watched online between classes. I missed the principle of the sport, but I didn’t miss the drama.” To fill in the backstory here, Duff arrived at Tech in the fall of 2015, and the following spring, she became the first Tech softball player ever to earn the ACC’s Freshman of the Year award. Then-head coach Scot Thomas saw her potential and decided to move starting catcher Katey Smith to first base, opening the door for Duff at the catcher spot. Duff hit .347 as a freshman, slugged better than .600 and led the team with five home runs. Her 20-game hitting streak ranked as the second-best in program history (and still does), and she threw out 13 runners. Lauren Duff spent last season away from softball, but the senior returned after Pete D’Amour’s hiring as the coach and has played a role in righting the Hokies’ ship by Jimmy Robertson softball spotlight lauren duff 40 Inside Hokie Sports Continued on page 42 She played well as a sophomore, too, setting career highs with 48 hits, seven homers and 21 RBIs. She threw out another 16 runners, for good measure. But partly because of internal drama—every team, even the good ones, has more of this than the average fan knows—and a bigger desire to start the steps needed for a career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], she decided to give up the sport at season’s end. She told Thomas at their year-end meeting. “My original mindset was, ‘Oh, I’ll be a police officer and maybe go to the FBI later,’” she said. “To do the FBI, you need, like, three years of work experience beforehand, so I was like, ‘OK, I need something to fill this gap of three years.’ I was thinking of being a police officer, but then thought a Marine Corps officer would work out really well. That always looks good on a resumé.” That led to her deciding to enroll in the Platoon Leaders Class at Virginia Tech, a year-long course designed to prepare potential candidates for the challenges that they will face at Office Candidate School (OCS). She spent her junior year at Tech taking that course along with other courses related to her criminology and sociology majors. Ready to navigate the steps toward her future, she enrolled at Officer Candidate School in Quantico outside of Washington, D.C. last summer, fully expecting to complete the 10-week course, return to Tech to graduate and then spend four years in the Marines before attempting to join the FBI. She wanted to follow a similar path blazed by Holly Harper, a former Tech swimmer who completed OCS in the fall of 2017 and now serves in the Marines.