Countdown To The Cutinos, 2018 Edition

Peter J. Cutino Award awaiting its big moment tomorrow night.

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO, CA. The Peter J. Cutino Award, named after former college water polo player and legendary coach Peter J. Cutino, is considered the most prestigious individual award in American collegiate water polo.

Sometimes referred to as the “Heisman for water polo,” it’s awarded annually to the outstanding female and male collegiate water polo players in the United States as voted by the coaches of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I schools.

The winners will be announced at the 19th Annual Cutino Awards Dinner tomorrow night at The Olympic Club’s City Clubhouse in San Francisco. Chris Dorst of the Pac12 Network will be the Master of Ceremonies, while Tony Azevedo, five-time Olympian and four-time Cutino award winner, will give the keynote address.

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Cutino fortune teller: who will win?! Illustration: Genevieve Randazzo

Nominees for this year’s award on the men’s side are: Cal’s Luca Cupido, Pacific’s Luke Pavillard and UCLA’s Matt Farmer and Alex Roelse. Mackenzie Fischer of Stanford and USC’s Paige Hauschild and Amanda Longan of are the nominees for the women. Last year’s winners were goalies McQuin Baron of USC and Ashleigh Johnson of Princeton.

First presented in 1999 by The Olympic Club Trustees of San Francisco, the award is given annually in honor of Cutino, the former University of California Berkeley and The Olympic Club coach who passed away in September 2004. A member of the U.S. Water Polo Hall of Fame, Cutino won Water Polo Coach of the Year 17 times. He led Cal to eight NCAA National Championships. He also coached U.S. teams in the Pan American Games, the Water Polo World Championships and the World University Games.

Much like the sport in America, Cutino winners are clustered around Cal, Stanford, UCLA and USC—the four college programs that dominate NCAA varsity polo. UCLA has won seven Cutinos, with Sean Kern, the former Bruin great, winning the first two trophies ever awarded  to men (1999, 2000). USC has captured the award a record 13 times; Bernice Orwig won the first-ever Cutino for women, and the Trojans have seen J. W. Krumpholz (2007, 2008) and Kami Craig (2009, 2010) win back-to-back. Their double victory in 2009 – 2010 is one of the few times the award has gone to the same school in the same academic year.

Cal has had its share of winners, headlined by John Mann in 2005 and Ivan Rackov in 2009; this year Cupido is a clear favorite to add to the Golden Bears’ haul.

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Luca Cupido; hard to deny this guy. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

By some measures the leading program for Cutino hardware is Stanford. The Cardinal have taken home eleven trophies—two behind USC—but they boast Azevedo’s four consecutive wins (2000-03). This unprecedented accomplishment is likely never to be repeated, though USC freshman scoring sensation Hauschild has a shot to begin a similar streak with a win Saturday night. Stanford’s dominance is reflected in consecutive Cutino wins in the 2001 – 2002 year, when Brenda Villa shared honors with Azevedo, and 2002 – 2003, when Jackie Frank also won.

Stanford has also had its share of disappointment; last year, despite being an overwhelming favorite for the award, Cardinal great Maggie Steffens was beaten out by Princeton’s Johnson—the only time a player from the East has ever won the award.

Referencing the narrow margin that decided the 2017 women’s winner, Gary Crooks—The Olympic Club’s Athletic Director who has overseen the awards presentation since it was inaugurated almost two decades ago—pointed out that it is up to the coaches to vote for their sport’s best.

“It’s time to champion your sport,” is how Crooks has previously encouraged coaches, some of whom did not vote in last year’s election. He added that participation this year was noticeably higher.

Pacific’s Balazs Erdelyi won three Cutino awards (2011-2013); with UC Irvine’s Tim Hutton (2006), Erdelyi—who now competes for his native Hungary’s national team—are the only players not from Cal, Stanford, UCLA and USC to have captured the award.

For a non-Pac12 player to take the prize in 2018, Pavillard, Pacific’s great lefty striker, would have to engineer a monumental upset, an unlikely occurrence a year after one of the great upsets in two decades of Cutino Award ceremonies.

2 Comments

2 comments

  1. avatar
    john m razi

    So great, that you covered this. Heart-beautiful ’bout how Luca Lupido..learned to play. The best !

    • avatar
      Michael Randazzo

      John:

      Thank you for your comments. I would say that all in the audience were touched by Cupido’s emotion regarding his win, his grandfather—and the joy that he associates with polo. You couldn’t ask for a more touching tribute for why the Cutino Awards are so special.

      BTW, The Olympic Club put on a fantastic evening!

      Your correspondent

Author: Michael Randazzo

avatar
Michael Randazzo is a freelance contributor at Swimming World focusing on water polo. He covers polo all over the United States for SW and other publications, including the Collegiate Water Polo Association, Skip Shot, The New York Times, Total Water Polo, Water Polo Planet and others. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children and roots for St. Francis Brooklyn polo.

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