JMU Debate Team Novices Win Season Opening Tournament

Three New Competitors Shine in Intercollegiate Debate Debut


by Becca Evans


SUMMARY: Three members of the JMU Debate Team shine in their intercollegiate debate debut at the season-opening Phyllis Schatz Invitational Tournament Binghamton University, overcoming challengers from Liberty, George Mason, and more in 10 rounds of competition over three days.

Binghamton, NY, September 26, 2021—The team of first-time competitors Adonis Ortiz (Political Science & Pre-Law, ’23) and Eric Pelletier (Political Science & Music, ’24) took on and defeated all-comers in JMU Debate Team’s season-opening tournament at the Phyllis Schatz Invitational Tournament Binghamton University to the take home the novice championship.

The competition involved 10 rounds of competition over three days, which includes two days of preliminary round debates and a day of single-elimination competition. Ortiz and Pelletier qualified for the elimination rounds after obtaining a 4-2 record in the preliminary rounds. In the round of 16, they defeated a team from Liberty University 3-0, received a forfeit from Cornell in the quarterfinal, stepped over teammates Anna Marcucci (Communication, ’22) and Michael McKim (International Affairs, ’24) in the semifinals, and defeated George Mason on a 3-0 decision in the final round of the novice division.

The second JMU team of Marcucci and McKim also finished the tournament unbowed, defeating Liberty in the round of 16 and Binghamton in the quarterfinals, and were only eliminated when matched up against Ortiz and Pelletier in the semifinal. JMU’s team policy is that teammates do not compete against each other. When paired against each in elimination rounds, the higher seed from preliminary rounds advances.

Marcucci, Ortiz and Pelletier were all making their debut in competition for JMU, while McKim was competing in only his second-ever competition. The novice is for competitors just entering debate competition.

The competition presents a triumph not only for the competitors, but the coaches who prepared the competitors for competition. The teams were coached by graduate assistant coach Ian Lowery (Communication Studies MA, ’23), affiliate coach and JMU alum Abhis Sedhai (Intelligence Analysis, ’18) and Assistant Director of Debate Chaz Wyche.

“We’ve really had two factors contribute to this success,” team director Dr. Michael Souders said, “The dedication of the competitors and the dedication of the coaches.” “It’s a great way to start the season.”


The JMU Debate Team is a program of the School of Communication Studies and the College of Arts and Letters at James Madison University dedicated to providing a forum for civic dialogue and promoting intercollegiate debate competition. The JMU Debate Team is a multi-year recipient of the National Public Debate Award. For more information, contact Dr. Michael Souders at or 540-568-5950.

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Published: Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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