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Eberly News Blog

22 Jan

The West Virginia University Debate Team has been busy in 2013. The young team members, many with little or no previous debate experience have preformed well in their past three tournaments.

“We have some excellent Novice debaters, who continue to improve in each tournament,” said Neil Berch, associate professor of political science and head coach for the WVU Debate Team. “We are particularly proud of Marissa Russell, who was named top speaker in the Novice division at the University of North Texas tournament.”

A small group traveled to the Dallas-area holiday tournaments. After debating in the JV division at the University of Texas-Dallas tournament, Novices Marissa Russell and Marilyn Guirguis returned to the Novice Division for the University of North Texas tournament. There, they went 5-1 in preliminary rounds and earned a bye in quarterfinals. After a solid win in their semifinals debate, they lost a tough 2-1 decision in the final to Texas-San Antonio. Russell was named top speaker in the Novice division. The group was accompanied by Assistant Coach Samantha Godbey, a PhD candidate and graduate teaching assistant in political science.

January 19-21, the team competed at the US Naval Academy tournament, and three debaters made their WVU debating debuts. Aubrey Schefft, a first year student with high school debate experience, debuted in the JV division with Allie Palmer. In Novice, Aldo Pucci and Andrew Bock returned for their second semester opener. They started out 3-1, but ran into tough competition in their four rounds on Sunday. Zachary Abe, who had never even seen a debate before this weekend, was paired with Marilyn Guirguis. They went a very respectable 4-4, missing elimination rounds on speaker points. Finally, Ahmed Al-Zawad also debuted (also without even having seen a debate). He and Marissa Russell went an astounding 5-3 in preliminary rounds. They lost a 2-1 decision to James Madison in octafinals, with a marvelous performance. The team was accompanied by Assistant Coaches Godbey and Michael Thunberg, a doctoral candidate in political science at WVU.

This weekend (Jan. 25-27) the team will be back on the road, attending the Monmouth University tournament, to be hosted by WVU alumnus Dr. Joe Patten. Assistant Coaches Godbey and Thunberg, and Head Coach Neil Berch will accompany several teams as the squad continues to pursue the dual goals of competitive success this spring and preparation for the 2013-14 campaign.

For questions about the WVU Debate Team contact Neil Berch at 304-293-3811, or by email at

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