Debate pair finishes in semifinals at nationals in best finish since 1964
University of the Pacific debaters Dallas Phillips ‘18 and Paul Villa ‘18 won four debate tournaments over the course of the 2016-17 season on their way to being ranked No. 2 overall in the nation. Their success help propel Pacific’s Speech and Debate Team to a No. 7 national ranking for the second year running.
“It truly was a historically successful regular season for the forensics team,” said Steven Kalani Farias ’09, ’11, Pacific’s director of forensics. “Dallas and Paul did a great job overall, as did everyone on the team; and while I am proud of everyone’s individual accomplishments, I am most impressed by the fact that we took first place as an entire squad five times, second place twice, and third twice. Top three at every tournament is hard to beat.”
Phillips and Villa’s four tournament wins included the Paul Winter’s International at Pacific and University of Utah’s Mile High Swing. They won more than 87 percent of their preliminary round debates throughout the season – the highest percentage ever for a Pacific debating pair – to achieve the No. 2 ranking out of 738 pairs.
The Phillips-Villa duo lead Pacific teammates Kayla Gerdes and Noreen Javed (ranked 22nd), Erika Jauregui and Melissa Munoz (ranked 43rd), and Megan Chatelain and Dominic Lesaca (ranked 57th) to the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE) held March 18-20 at Colorado State University in Pueblo. It was only the second time Pacific had qualified four pairs for the tournament and together they were ranked higher than any previous four teams in Pacific forensic history.
Competing against the nation’s top debate duos, Phillips-Villa and Gerdes-Javed finished 6th and 28th respectively. Phillips also finished as the 11th best individual debater in the NPTE tournament.
The team, ranked No. 1 in the National Parliamentary Debate Association’s (NPDA) season-long sweepstakes heading into the final month of the regular season for the first time ever, finished ranked 7th out of 179 colleges and universities for the second year in a row. The team moved to the NPDA National Tournament held March 23-26 at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. There they competed against 140 pairs from more than 40 colleges and universities, with Phillips-Villa and Gerdes-Javed advancing to the Sweet Sixteen round, making Pacific one of just three teams with at least two partnerships in this round.
Phillips-Villa reached the semifinal round – furthest any Pacific team has advanced at the national debate tournament since it last won a national championship in 1964 – by beating teams from the U.S. Air Force Academy, University of Nevada, Reno, Lewis and Clark College and Rice University. Phillips-Villa lost in the semifinals to the eventual national champions from Washburn University, but their success along with Gerdes-Javed’s 16th place finish and the team’s overall performance placed Pacific firmly in third place overall for the NPDA tournament.
Pacific’s Speech and Debate Team now turns its attention to the National Forensics Associations National Tournament held April 12-18 at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.
Debate and oratory at Pacific began in March 1854 when a group of students met and formed a committee to draft a constitution for a college organization in which students helped each other “in the acquirement of an easy, graceful, and impressive manner of speaking, as well as skill in the use of language.” Over the years Pacific debaters continued to achieve success, being ranked first in the nation several times and regularly finishing in the top 10.