Three years ago, three La Salle University students sat in a dorm room and decided to start a Mock Trial team to compete in tournaments. Next month, the University’s squad will compete in Washington, D.C., in the opening round of the national qualifying tournament, following a strong showing in the recent Philadelphia regional tournament.
“The team is ecstatic about our bid to be national qualifiers. When they announced the eight finalists, we all felt like our hearts were in our throats until they announced that we were advancing,” said Steve Patton, a senior and team president. “We are all especially proud to be an entirely student-run and student-coached organization.”
Patton, along with John Prendergast and T.J. McCarrick, started the organization, began to organize teams (eventually, two squads were formed). During the past few years, the La Salle teams have won invitational tournaments. In addition to the founding trio, members include Colette Monaghan, Katherine McBeth, Paul Dunne, Molly Fay, Chris Hanno, and Erin Carroll.
The format of the tournament in Washington, D.C., to be held March 17 and 18, is a four-round competition (two on Saturday and two on Sunday). All teams are power paired, meaning squads with the best records face each other in succeeding sounds. In the final championship round to be held in Minneapolis, the top 25 teams in the country will compete. “In order to make it to that tournament, we have to be in the top eight teams in a field of 24 in D.C.,” said Patton, who is a Political Science and Psychology dual major.
“In terms of preparation, we practice about as much as any club sport team on campus,” said Patton. “We have three-hour practices every Tuesday and most Thursdays. In August, all colleges participating in the competitions received the case they would argue. “We work every angle of that case through in our practices and scrimmages,” said Patton. “We have sessions where we break down the evidence and witness statements. Collectively, the team puts in hundreds of hours preparing for these things.”
“With that said, we have great support from Dr. Michael Dillon, Chair of the Political Science Department and Director of the Pre-law program, and many others,” said Patton. “This win is three years in the making and means a great deal especially to me, John Prendergast and T.J. McCarrick who started this organization. Now, we will head to D.C. to mix it up with some of the top teams on the East Coast. We are proud to represent La Salle and compete against the Ivy League and other powerhouse schools that traditionally win these competitions. We’ve always been the underdog and are happy to play that role again.”
Paul Dunne, a sophomore Risk Management major, said, “My experience with La Salle Mock Trial has truly been one-of-a-kind. The work we put in, the challenges we face, and the victories we desire force us to work as a unit with one focus: to win. During the hours upon hours we’ve spent together, we have truly become a family who loves and respects one another, just as any family would.”
Team member Chris Hanno, a freshman communication and political science major, said, “The team this year has been absolutely great. Having never done a mock trial before, I was initially pretty nervous and a bit intimidated by the whole process. But I soon learned I was on a team that would do great. Steve, TJ, and John are some of the hardest working guys I have met, and their dedication to the team is impressive. They really have set an example for how I would like my college experience to go. Colette, Katherine, Paul, Molly and Erin are all great as well.”
“The amount of fun we have as a team is unbelievable. Outside of trials I do not think there is one dull moment that we are not all having blast together,” said Hanno, who hopes to become an attorney.