By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor
Four male finalists for the Peter J. Cutino Award, given annually to the outstanding female and male Collegiate water polo players in the United States as voted by the coaches of NCAA Division I schools, were announced today by The Olympic Club.
The finalists are: Luca Cupido, senior from the University of California; Luke Pavillard, sophomore from University of Pacific; and two seniors from UCLA; Matt Farmer and Alex Roelse. Typically, only three candidates are named as finalists, but in the case of a tie in the nominating process—which also occurred last year—four candidates may be nominated.
Female finalists will be announced following the conclusion of the women’s season next May. The men’s and women’s Cutino Award winners will be announced at the 19th Annual Cutino Awards Night Dinner on June 2, 2018 at The Olympic Club’s City Clubhouse in San Francisco.
Considered America’s most prestigious water polo honor, the award is named for the late Peter J. Cutino, the former University of California Berkeley and The Olympic Club coach acknowledged by many to be the greatest coach in U.S. water polo history. 2017 winners included two netminders: USC’s McQuin Baron and Princeton’s Ashleigh Johnson, the first Eastern-born player to collect a Cutino. Johnson was also the first-ever player from an East Coast school to win.
Cupido was named yesterday as the 2017 Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC) Player of the Year, adding to the 2017 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year award he collected earlier this month. The native of Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy, led his conference with 58 goals. Among his 2017 highlights, Cupido—also a member of the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team that competed last summer at the 2017 FINA World Championships—scored with 11 seconds remaining in a MPSF Tournament third-place match which drew the Golden Bears even with bitter rival Stanford. In overtime he put Cal ahead for good, leading his team to a 10-9 victory and a spot in the 2017 NCAA Men’s Water Polo Tournament.
Pavillard was the 2017 Golden Coast Conference Player of the Year as he led the Tigers to the GCC’s first-ever automatic NCAA berth. The native of Perth, Australia collected team-highs in goals (81) and steals (68) steals and was a driving force in Pacific qualifying for its first NCAA berth since a 2013 run to the national championship final, a 12-11 overtime loss to USC.
Farmer and Roelse reflect a recent trend of teammates both vying to be named the country’s best. Last year, Baron and Trojan teammate Blake Edwards joined UCLA’s Garrett Danner—the 2015 Cutino Award winner—and Ryder Roberts. Both Roelse and Farmer figured prominently in the Bruin’s NCAA title win earlier this month.
Roelse, a native of Maarssen, Netherlands who teamed with Cupido this summer on Team USA, notched two goals in UCLA’s 7-5 win over USC at Uytengsu Aquatic Center in LA.
Farmer also scored twice in the championship match, including the game-winner with three minutes remaining. Being named a Cutino finalist caps a remarkable career the native of LaGrange, Illinois, who fought his way up from benchwarmer as a freshman to become a three-time NCAA champion.