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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Victory at Bloomsburg

The Villiger Speech and Debate team after their PFA championship victory (Photo courtesy of Tom Hauk ’20).

Villiger Speech and Debate’s third consecutive championship win

For the third year in a row, the Villiger Speech and Debate Team has won the Pennsylvania Forensics Association (PFA) state championship.

In addition to the team’s win on Feb.19 at Bloomsburg University, William Oxenford ’21 and Julian Lutz ’19 won in the two person parliamentary debate, and Lutz won the informative speaking competition.

“I could not be more proud of the team,” Villiger president Tom Hauk ’20 said, “especially of the walk-ons, who did not really know much about speech and debate and have really shown us what they can do.”

The team is made up of three walk-ons and six members on scholarship, who are either recruited or awarded scholarships after sustained excellence as a walk-on.

One of the walk-ons is Maura Flynn ’21, a biology major with no experience in speech and debate prior to her freshman year at St. Joe’s. She joined the team after talking to members at the Activities Fair in the fall.

“They really described it as a family and something that was very welcoming,” Flynn said. “It was also such a good skill for any profession that I would have in the future.”

Flynn has already achieved individual success, coming in first place in persuasive speaking at the PFA state championships.

The speech and debate team does not have a full-time faculty member who serves as the moderator. The members of the team mostly rely on each other for support, with the upperclassmen lending support to the new members.

“Other schools normally have at least one coach if not more,” Flynn said. “The upperclassmen are really good at managing it all, but I think it would be easier if we had a coach. There have been times where I have wanted to practice with someone but they have to practice their own events.”

Hauk also thinks the university recruiting an advisor would be an asset to the team. “It would make our lives a whole lot easier not having to deal with the administrative work as much,” Hauk said.

Without a coach, the team mentors each other. Flynn credits Christopher Pendleton ’19 in particular with helping her performance.

“At first I was just memorizing my speech and reciting it, but it is so much more than that,” Flynn said. “You have to show people passion and show that you care.”

Pendleton said he really enjoys working with the walk-ons.

“It’s not easy learning speech basics, but all of the walk-ons are a blast to work with and should serve as role models as not only speech competitors but ambitious SJU students,” Pendleton said.

Alumni mentors also serve as an asset to the team.

“Alumni do Skype in or sometimes come to campus and help coach and tell us what we can work on on pieces” Hauk said.

David Tuason ’03 is one of the alumni coaches and a past president of the team. While he has a full-time job as an attorney, he helps out the team when he can.

Tuason has coached the team through a significant transition period. In 2014, there were only three people left on the team, all juniors, and there was a worry the team would die out. Tuason attributes the class of 2019; Lutz, Pendleton and Jessica Olszyk ’19; for reviving the team and changing the culture.

“They have an inner desire to win and compete nationally,” Tuason said. “You cannot teach that.”

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