Dominance in Irvine
Five years ago, Miami Mock Trial, supported by Gus Lazares, Jaime Glinka, Alex Blublond, Kevin Harrison, and Tommy Jeffcott, landed in Irvine, California. They breached the walls of the Orange County Courthouse, and fought their way to a final round that lead to a championship finish. In the case of Midlands v Jackie Owens, the 2009 Redhawks blew their competition out of the water, and secured a place in AMTA history.
Two of those winning members got a chance to return to Irvine to see their Alma mater make another run for first place. Coaches Gus Lazares and Jaime Glinka, joined by Neal Schuett and Lawrence Hilton, brought two Miami teams to Southern California for that very same tournament. The Beach Party is considered one of the three "Top Tier" tournaments in the invitational season (right next to UVA's GAMTI and NYU's Downtown). Miami won the Beach Party once before, and they were determined that history would repeat itself.
Divisional Stage: the South v. the West
For the Beach Party, schools compete as programs, rather than as independent teams. Thus, Miami A and B would both compete under the banner of Miami University, and would have to face A and B teams from the nation's best. The Beach Party also employs a bracket system, where each team is placed in a division with two other programs, and only the top program can advance out of their bracket on to the Final Four. Miami's division, named in honor of MMT alumnus Ian Ferrell (who was the Beach Party's top competitor in 2009) featured Princeton and a combined team of Irvine and University of San Diego (UCSD). Miami A and B were set to hit both schools in the first two rounds of the tournament to determine whether or not they would advance out of their bracket and into the Semi-Finals.
In the first round, Miami A hit 2014 National Runner Up, Princeton A, and Miami B fought Host School California-Irvine A. Even though they brought Love and Honor to both council tables, the first round proved near fruitless for Miami. The A team would go 1-2 against Princeton's defense, whose witness Jesse Duran would win one of the top ten witness awards at the tournament. It was a near miss though, as Miami went +1 -1 -11. "We felt out of our element," competitor Najeeb Ahmed mentioned afterwards.
The B team threw down against an all senior plaintiff council bench, lead by Laureen Bousmail, the highest ranked attorney at Nationals last April. While the round included some questionable closing argument antics by B Team Captain, Henry Leaman, the B team squeaked out a ballot over the veteran Irvine Squad. Witness Jazmine Kee shared her sentiments with her team, "While it's not what you always dream of, in a tough tournament, sometimes it's just one ballot that makes a difference". She could not have been more right.
In the second round, Miami A defense ran against UCSD. Their case in chief utilized a strong performance by Taylor Seay as Officer Dale WIlliams and directed by Ben Sandlin, as well as a powerful opening by Captain Matt Meeks. The A team overpowered UCSD, sweeping all three ballots.
They would be helped by Miami B, who ran plaintiff against Princeton B. A judging shortage would force the teams to play a lethal game - two judges, double point ballots. In this rare instance, the point difference would help determine the conversion between the two judges results, and a three ballot interpretation. Freshman Dani Kunkel and Sophomore Katie O'Keeffe would define their case in chief, and the Mockhawks would pick up one and a half ballots, with a win and a tie. The B team's one and a half ballots plus the A team's three ballot sweep would push Miami out of their bracket and into the semi-finals.
The Ian Ferrell Division was extremely competitive. In fact, each team was only one ballot away from eachother. At the end of day one, Irvine/UCSD had compiled 11 wins. Princeton had gathered 12 wins. Miami University stood apart, with 13 wins, enough to advance them to the Final Four.
Final Four: old rivals, new venue
Miami A, the only number one seeded team to advance out of the divisional stage, would play the winner of the Lampert Divison (named after last year's top competitor, UCLA's Iain Lampert): Duke University. The stage was set for an amazing round, given the fact that Miami has faced Duke at every single tournament this year.
The A Team would come out swinging. Featuring direct examinations of All-American Monika Mudd, as well as Najeeb Ahmed, the A team ran what they felt was their strongest plaintiff case in chief of the year. However, they were met in equal force. "One thing about Duke is that they are extremely clean. Their performances are professional, they respond well, and when you see that consistently, like we have three times now this year, you know you need to bring everything you have" Capt Monika Mudd said after the round. Still, even with new found vigor, Miami would drop two of those ballots to the Blue Devils, putting them behind the eight ball for advancement. In the Final Four, schools have to win up to six ballots, and with Duke holding two of those, it fell upon Miami B to change the program's destiny.
Miami B defense needed to rise above expectations, and they came to play. Oliver Zoellner and Jazmine Kee would provide powerful depictions of the defense witnesses, "And [those witnesses] forced Duke to play our game," said observer and MMT alumnus Alex Block. Witnesses would be pivotal in Miami B's effort, and their hard work would pay off. Miami would win two and a half ballots, pushing Miami to 3-2-1 record over Duke's 2-3-1, and allowing them to go on to the final round. "This is why the Beach Party is the greatest tournament in the country," B team competitor, Spencer Tackett raved to his teammates after hearing the results. "Because it's not about 'oh you're on A' or 'you're just on B'. The A team saved us in the second round [with wins over UCSD], and we saved them this round [with wins over Duke]. So we've helped each other, we picked each other up, and now we have to fight together for the ultimate prize,".
ANother Championship Round, five years later
With their first appearance in the championship since the 2011-2012 season, Miami was paired with Top Tier School Northwestern University. Northwestern had all the momentum it needed. They steamrolled through their division, which included AMTA Powerhouses' NYU and Furman. Not only did they tackle their division, they dove headfirst into a Final Four round against Tufts University, the AMTA Cinderella Story in the making who were following up a top finish at GAMTI. Northwestern wasn't pulling any punches, and the Redhawks prepared for the hits.
The A team would run defense against Northwestern, and even had AMTA President Justin Bernstein sit in to preside. The A team held nothing back before the Hall of Fame Coach, as they unleashed a powerful closing by John Spear, and three dynamic cross examinations, conducted by Spear, Meeks, and Sandlin.
The B team would have similar success on the plaintiff side against Northwestern B. Imokhai Okolo shocked the courtroom in his cross examination of Danny Brooks, and Julia Luna, performing in her fourth straight round, left the room with their jaws on the floor after her direct examination.
The results were a first in the history of the tournament, and left no doubt as to who had taken the number one spot. Five years after Lazares and Glinka held the Beach Party Bracket in their hands, Matthew Meeks, Monika Mudd, Katie O'Keeffe, and Henry Leaman delivered the Beach Party First Place trophy to the Mockhawks, who were eagerly awaiting it's return. They had swept Northwestern on all ballots, by over a 40 point margin in total - a first in Beach Party history.
Oliver Zoellner would also win an Outstanding Witness Award for his work on the defense.
a long rest ahead
For now, the Mockhawks will hibernate for the winter. Following All-Program meetings in the following week, the teams will dismiss for Winter Break. The teams will make some final adjustments before proceeding to their respective tournaments in January. The A Team will again be staring down AMTA's best competition in January at New York University's Downtown Invitational, the only top tier tournament left in the invitational season before regional tournaments begin in February. The B team will head down to Atlanta to compete in the Wramblin' Wreck Tournament where they hope to take home a first place finish again. The C and D teams will go to Indiana to compete at the Hoosier Hoedown.
The A Team
Record: 8-4 | CS: Unavailable | OCS: Unavailable | PD: Unavailable | Team #: 1075
Coaches: Lawrence Hilton, Gus Lazares
Competitors: Matt Meeks, Monika Mudd, Taylor Seay, Najeeb Ahmed, Sam Hobbs, Chelsea Appiah, Ben Sandlin, Elias Demeropolis, John Spear,
The B Team:
Record: 7-3-2 | CS: Unavailable | OCS: Unavailable | PD: Unavailable | Team #: 1076
Coaches: Neal Schuett, Jaime Glinka
Competitors: Spencer Tackett, Adam Korn, Reeti Pal, Imokhai Okolo, Julia Luna, Dani Kunkel, Katie O'Keeffe, Oliver Zoellner, Henry Leaman, Jazmine Kee
Oliver Zoellner (∆, 22 Ranks)