| Debate Team prepares for a tournament in San Diego ||
p. Is Notre Dame about to capture another national championship? It’s debatable, but the University’s Debate Team has definitely put itself in position to do so.p. The 17 members of the team are nearing the end of an impressive season with back-to-back tournament victories that helped put them in prime position to claim the National Parliamentary Debate Association’s (NPDA) Season Sweepstakes. Notre Dame finished fifth in the nation last year. They are also looking forward to the season-ending NPDA National Tournament at which Notre Dame placed second last year. It will be held in Portland, Ore., at the end of March.p. p. “I continue to be so proud of this entire team,” said coach Kate Huetteman, a second-year law student. “I feel we have a lot of positive momentum as we head into the last few months of competition before the national tournament.”p. The students, meanwhile, are enjoying their winning season after bouncing back from a pair of early losses. They were defeated in the final round at Purdue University’s Boilermaker Special, and hopes were dashed at the Al Johnson Invitational at Colorado College when two promising Notre Dame pairings lost in the early rounds.p. The slump ended at the following competition. Notre Dame debaters delivered an unprecedented performance at the Gateway Invitational Nov. 15-17 at Washington University in St. Louis. Competing with teams from some 20 other colleges and universities, Notre Dame students placed first and second in the open division and first in the novice division. They also won several individual awards and two sweepstakes trophies.p. The senior pairing of Maureen Gottlieb from Holland, Mich., and Victoria Fetterman from Alexandria, Va., made it to the final round to challenge fellow students Meghan Callahan-Peters, a sophomore from Denver, and team president Christopher Gallo, a senior from Kings Park, N.Y. Since both teams were from Notre Dame, the final round was called off and the Irish debaters were declared first- and second-place winners in the open division. Freshmen Tim Fiorta of Mentor, Ohio, and Mike Subialka of Monument, Colo., won in the novice division and also claimed individual awards as the third- and fourth-place novice speakers, respectively. Notre Dame walked away from the tournament with 26 points toward the sweepstakes.p. “It was a really good step in our season,” Gottlieb told The Observer. “The fact that we had undefeated teams is unbelieveable.”p. With a newfound confidence, Notre Dame turned in a repeat performance at the Frank-ly Speaking tournament Jan. 17-18 at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill., against 15 other colleges and universities. Two Irish pairings ? Gottlieb/Fetterman along with Mainon Schwartz, a junior from Knox, Ind., and Clayton Swope, a senior from Louisville, Ky. ? advanced to the final round, eliminating the need for the final debate, and Notre Dame again finished first and second.p. “Four years ago, no one in the parliamentary debate community took notice of the University of Notre Dame, nor considered its team a serious contender in the field,” Swope said. “Now we stand two spots from the top on the national rankings, eclipsing hundreds of other teams from across the nation who once neglected to acknowledge our presence, and prepare to finish the drive toward the national championship in March to etch the name Notre Dame into debate history.”p. Continuing its momentum, the team won the first annual DePauw Debates, which hosted teams from 24 colleges and universities Jan. 26 in Greencastle, Ind. Gottlieb/Fetterman defeated a pairing from Purdue University for the win.p. The team is in third-place in the national sweepstakes with 79 points, just two points behind South Orange County College and Truman State University, and can claim another national title for Notre Dame with a strong performance at the NPDA National Tournament in Portland.p. A national title would cap the Debate Team’s most successful season since its assembly in the 1940s under the leadership of president Frank Finn, a 1949 Notre Dame graduate. Since then, the team has survived tumultuous years and even ceased to exist for the majority of the 1990s before beginning its comeback at the end of the decade.p. Huetteman was a member of the team from 1998-2001. She began coaching in 2001 after earning her bachelor’s degree with a double major in government and international relations and Spanish. Other members of the Notre Dame Debate Team are juniors Mary Komperda, University Heights, Ohio; and Kara Vey, Huntersville, N.C.; sophomores Robby Davidson, Evansville, Ind.; Lindsay Miller, Allentown, Pa.; Bob Kaiser, Cincinnati; and Brodie Butland, Columbus, Ohio; and freshmen Dinal Edirisinghe, Sri Lanka; Michelle Fitzgerald, Parkville, Mo.; and Matt Tracey, North Bend, Ore.p. The team receives financial support from Helen and William T. Carey, graduates of St. Mary’s College and Notre Dame, respectively. Sister Jean Lenz, assistant vice president for Student Affairs at Notre Dame, oversees the team.