The McConnell Center’s moot court teams. From left to right, first row: Alicia Humphrey, Dasha Kolyaskina, Macey Mayes, assistant coach Sean Williamson. Back row: Head coach Neil Salyer, Eric Bush, Robert Gassman, Easton Depp, Jacob Abrahamson, Jasper Noble.
The McConnell Center’s moot court teams. From left to right, first row: Alicia Humphrey, Dasha Kolyaskina, Macey Mayes, assistant coach Sean Williamson. Back row: Head coach Neil Salyer, Eric Bush, Robert Gassman, Easton Depp, Jacob Abrahamson, Jasper Noble.
McConnell Center freshmen Dasha Kolyaskina and Jasper Noble
McConnell Center freshmen Dasha Kolyaskina and Jasper Noble

This time last year, Dasha Kolyaskina and Jasper Noble were looking forward to their final semester of high school. This year, the two freshman McConnell Scholars are spending their Christmas break prepping for the American Moot Court Association’s national tournament in Gulfport, Florida, following a stellar performance at a regional undergraduate competition earlier this month.

Forty teams competed in the Dec. 2-3 regional event held at Saginaw Valley State University, with the top eight advancing to the national finals slated for Jan. 6-7 at Stetson University. Team Kolyaskina/Noble were one of four teams sent by the McConnell Center to participate in the event, which showcases oral arguments before an appellate court of law.

“I have always had an interest in the law but did not have room for legal studies in my class schedule,” said Kolyaskina, who intends to double major in finance and economics and minor in Spanish, political science and international business. “I have learned so much from this experience and especially appreciate the advice from the upperclassmen on the team. If they weren’t pushing me from Day 1, I would not have been able to make the competitive team.”

Moot Court competitions are known for their intensity, which makes the two freshmen’s placement in the finals even more impressive, according to UofL law school alumnus and team coach Neil Salyer.

“UofL students are probably the only ones in the entire national competition who do not prepare for this as part of a class,” Salyer said. “We probably put in 80 hours of practice this fall, including weekends and late evening practices — and that’s in addition to their other responsibilities as students and McConnell Scholars.”

The regional tournament also saw two UofL students place in the top 15 in the oral arguments category, with Robert Gassman placing 9th and Alicia Humphrey finishing 11th out of 76 competitors. The center’s moot court program was also ranked in the top 20 nationally by the AMCA earlier this year.

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Matt Lambert

Matt has served in multiple communications and marketing roles since joining UofL in 2012 and is currently a communications specialist in charge of national media outreach for research and academics. He came to UofL following a successful tenure as the Associate Director of Public Affairs and External Relations at Loyola University New Orleans. In his 20-plus year career in communications, Matt has worked as an award-winning journalist, owned his own political consulting firm and served as a communications director in the U.S. Congress. He is not only employed by UofL, but also a recent graduate, earning his MBA from the College of Business in May 2016.