Cutino Award Nominations Signal 2018-19 NCAA Water Polo Season Drawing to a Close

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It's that time of year again for American water polo: The Cutino Award. Photo Courtesy: M. Randazzo

In an announcement last weekend that overlapped the 2019 NCAA Women’s Water Polo Tournament, The Olympic Club released the finalists for the Peter J. Cutino Award. For the men—previously announced last December—the nominees are Ben Hallock (Stanford), Johnny Hooper (Cal), and Alex Wolf (UCLA). The women’s nominees, made public last Friday, feature Makenzie Fischer (Stanford), Amanda Longan (USC), and Paige Hauschild (USC).

Equivalent to the Wooden Award, presented annually by the Los Angeles Athletic Club to the year’s most outstanding men’s and women’s college basketball players, and the Heisman Award, presented by the Downtown Athletic Club in New York for the nation’s best collegiate football athlete, the Cutino Award recognizes the best men’s and women’s polo players.

Last year, Longan and Luca Cupido of the University of California were named the nation’s best. If Longan were to win this year—in a vote primarily decided by college water polo coaches from across the country—she would become the first repeat winner since Balazs Erdelyi of University of Pacific won three straight Cutinos (2011-13).

[Cupido and Longan Capture 2018 Cutino Awards at The Olympic Club]

Gala to take place June 1 in San Francisco

On Saturday, June 1, the male and female winners will be announced at an annual award gala hosted by The Olympic Club in its downtown San Francisco clubhouse. This date, which closes out the collegiate season, contains a new wrinkle: a live broadcast. Thanks to USA Water Polo, the award ceremony— including a one hour pre-show hosted by Greg Mescall and three-time Olympic medalist and two-time Cutino Award recipient Kami Craig—will be streamed from The Olympic Club’s downtown San Francisco location.

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Amanda Longan and Luca Cupido in 2018. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Another innovation for this year is that past female winners—including Craig, a multiple winner—will have the opportunity to select this 2019 female player of the year. Next year, the former men’s winners will also be allowed to vote.

The award’s history dates back to the late 90’s, when The Olympic Club sought to increase and improve the general public awareness of the club’s commitment to amateur sports.

As documented in Water Polo at The Olympic Club: 1896 – 2012 A Century of Excellence, by Russ Hafferkamp and Andy Burke, the selection of Cutino as a namesake for the award made perfect sense. Possessing (at the time) the highest winning percentage of any collegiate water polo coach (since exceeded by Jovan Vavic, USC’s former coach) along with eight NCAA titles during his tenure at the University of California, Cutino was known for his exceptional coaching, passion for the sport, and ties to The Olympic Club, where he coached the club’s masters team.

To have the award named after me is a great honor. I think the best thing about it is that it helps promote our sport by putting our best athletes in the spotlight. Anytime you get your sport recognized, it’s a good thing. And if it gives the athlete something to shoot for, then it’s great.
Pete Cutino (cited by Hafferkamp and Burke; first Cutino Award ceremony in 2000)

Stanford looks to sweep men’s and women’s awards for first time since 2003

The two candidates from Stanford are considered favorites for the award. Hallock was the 2018 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Player of the Year, as he led his team to the NCAA Finals for the first time since 2018, where they lost 14-12 to USC.

This year EVERYONE was looking to stop Makenzie Fischer… to no avail. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Fischer was also her conference’s best. Named 2019 MPSF Player of the Year, last Sunday she led the Cardinal to their seventh national championship, tying UCLA for the most women’s titles in NCAA water polo history.

According to Hafferkamp and Burke, the first Cutino Award was drawn from five nominees on the men’s side and five on the women’s, with the winners being Kern of UCLA and Bernice Orwig of USC. The number of nominees has been reduced to three, though occasionally there is a tie, which increases the number.

If five were nominated this year, it’s certain that at least one if not two of the men’s candidates would be members of the Trojan squad that won the national championship. Jacob Mercep led USC with 62 goals—and scored five goals in the NCAA final. Freshman Hannes Daube, with 58 goals, was second on the squad.

Worthy of consideration on the women’s side are UCLA’s Maddie Musselman, who with 61 goals powered the nation’s #3 team, and USC’s Maud Megens, who registered a team-high 68 scores.

As part of the Cutino Award program of events, there will be interviews with finalists, athletes, coaches and more plus the Cutino Award ceremony in its entirety. The broadcast will air free of charge at YouTube.com/USAWP and Facebook.com/USAWP so be sure to tune in.

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