Cupido and Longan Capture 2018 Cutino Awards at The Olympic Club

USC's Amanda Longan and Cal's Luca Cupido, winners of this year's Cutino Awards. Photo Courtesy: (c) Catharyn Hayne

Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO, CA. In a decided contrast to last year’s ceremony, where controversy overshadowed the selection process, the 2018 Peter J. Cutino Awards ceremony at The Olympic Club in downtown San Francisco saw wins by the prohibitive favorites for the crown of best men’s and women’s water polo players in America.

As determined by vote of the coaches for NCAA men’s and women’s varsity polo, senior attacker Luca Cupido of Cal-Berkeley, and junior goalie Amanda Longan of USC were awarded with trophies tonight by Anna Cutino, daughter of the now-deceased Cal head coach who is universally revered as the best coach the sport in America has produced.

In an impromptu speech—because he was superstitious and didn’t want to jinx his chances—Cupido said that his favorite memory growing up was of playing water polo with his father, brother and grandfather off of a boat in his native Italy. Cupido then choked up remembering his grandfather, who recently passed away.

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Cupido with Lazar Andric. Photo Courtesy: (c) Catharyn Hayne

Longan also grew emotional as she spoke about the support she got from her family and the many coaches and teammates who helped shape her into the superb competitor she has become for head coach Jovan Vavic’s team.

It truly was a love-fest for the sport. An audience of 200 former and current players, including members of local boys and girls high school teams who the past academic year had won championships—as well as friends and supporters of the sport—came together to fete the award’s seven nominees as well as water polo itself. The atmosphere could not have been more festive, from emcee Chris Dorst, to Tony Azevedo, four-time Cutino award winner and five-time Olympian, delivering the keynote speech, to Peter Conte, who carefully explained that, even though The Olympic Club has hosted the event since its inception in 1999, it is the U.S. coaches who actually decide who is wins the Cutino awards .

That point was brought into question last year, when Stanford’s Maggie Steffens, a consensus favorite for the award, was beaten out by Princeton’s Ashleigh Johnson despite having the more impressive water polo resume, including the winning goal with nine seconds left against UCLA in the 2017 NCAA title match.

Cupido, scored 58 goals to lead all Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) scorers—earning him the conference’s 2017 Player of the Year recognition. This success ultimately outdistanced Pacific red-shirt sophomore Luke Pavillard as well as seniors Matt Farmer and Alex Roelse of 2017 NCAA winner UCLA.

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Jovan Vavic with Longan. Photo Courtesy: (c) Catharyn Hayne

Longan, with a  5.24 goals against average in 22 games, also won an NCAA title this year, as her Trojans—featuring fellow Cutino Award finalist Paige Hauschild—bested Stanford and sophomore Mackenzie Fischer, the other Cutino finalist.

With the win, Cupido becomes the third Golden Bear to be cited as the best water polo player in America. Longan’s win puts her in good company with a long-line of winners from USC—14 in all—the most of any school in the award’s history.

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Author: Michael Randazzo

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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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