The Cutino Awards, 2018 Edition: Quotes from the Crowd

Tony and Sara Azevedo. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Editor’s Note: For the first time in the 19-year history of the award, Swimming World covered the Cutino Awards, the most prestigious event in American water polo. Thanks to Gary Crooks, Athletic Director for The Olympic Club, which has hosted the Cutinos for almost two decades, we were able to have reporter Michael Randazzo and photographer Catharyn Hayne on hand for the dinner and awards presentation.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA. The Cutino Awards, hosted by The Olympic Club, is not just a recognition of some of the country’s top male and female college players, it’s a celebration of water polo in America.

Cal’s Luca Cupido and USC’s Amanda Longan were this year’s recipients, and what was impressive was how much fellowship and admiration for the sport as well as each other came from all the attendees at this year’s event.

Swimming World spoke with many of the notable athletes, coaches and influencers from all over the country—with a decided tilt toward the fertile Northern California community that has been so vital to the sport’s success.

Thoughts from the winners: coaches and past Cutino Award recipients and current nominees.

Jovan Vavic, USC Men’s and Women’s Head Coach; has coached 14 Cutino Award winners, the most in the award’s history, including 2018 women’s winner Amanda Longan.

It’s always great for a hardworking and committed athlete to be awarded like this. [Amanda is] a special young lady who has worked so hard from the beginning since she joined as.

I don’t think you know this but when she was a freshman she didn’t make the [U.S. National] junior team—she was the third goalie select for worlds. She was bummed about that, but one of the substitute goalies got injured and they called her back.

She goes to Junior Worlds and she becomes MVP as the U.S. wins a gold medal. That gives you an idea what kind of a player Amanda is.

She never quits.

She’s got great things ahead of her.


Jovan Vavic, Amanda Longan. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

– The feeling of community at the Cutino awards was inspiring.

I’ve attended most of them—I think I may have missed two or three—because so many of my players, even when we don’t win, we go there to support the families.

From the beginning, I felt the same way you felt. I really enjoy seeing parents and players; I feel the pride that they have in just being there with so many great Olympians and great names in water polo.

It’s a special evening about more than just yourself. We are a community, and when you see how many people and great athletes are there it just makes you feel great. 

Lazar Andric, Cal Men’s Water Polo Assistant Coach; won an NCAA championship in 2016 with the Golden Bears. [Before the awards ceremony]

I’m still playing with Luca right now [on a National League team]. It’s such a pleasure. It’s not that he might win it; he’s going to win it 100%.

He has a lot of influence in the pool but I don’t think people actually understand just how big that influence is. if you watch Luca every game, you’ll understand the impact he has on every single position he plays. it doesn’t matter where he is; center, center defender; it does not matter.

He’s phenomenal anywhere he is in the pool. That’s what makes him one of the best players in the world.


Luca Cupido, Lazar Andric. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

– You never met Coach Cutino but I’m sure you know about his legacy.

On a weekly basis, I hear about Peter Cutino from my coach, Kirk Everist, at Cal—and how big an influence and how amazing a coach he was.

Being here at “O” Club, being with such great athletes and sharing this moment, this event, it’s just amazing.

Adam Wright, UCLA Men’s and Women’s Head Coach; 3X Olympian (2004, 2008, 2012); two players nominated in 2018

We know Pete will go down as one of the all-time great college coaches. He also coached the national team and here at The Olympic Club. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to play for him. I know a lot of people who did; they said the best thing about Pete was how he brought the team together.

It’s great to be at this point with two of our players [nominated] in the same year for the Heisman Trophy of water polo.

All the players up for it on the men’s and women’s side are well-deserving; they all had their best years. [Matt] Farmer is an incredible [candidate]; the kid came out of left field. But it’s a tribute to the work he put in and the season he had. He’s not a name like a Cupido or Roelse.

For us, we get one more chance to be here together.


Jason Falitz, Matt Farmer, Adam Wright, Alex Roelse. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

– You are a Bruin through and through. You’ve got to have a tremendous sense of accomplishment for what your teams have accomplished this year.

Our goal every year is to make our past alumni proud of what we’re doing now. To have two players here for this award means that our guys did a heck of a job.

The players who were here before us laid the way for what we have today, and our goal is to make them proud. This is another example of the hard work our guys put it—they reap benefits like this.

Alex Roelse, Olympian (2016); 3x NCAA champion for UCLA; 2018 nominee for a Cutino

It would mean a lot to the program. Adam really preaches to us about doing things as a team and not one guy’s above the group. This year I think we really showed that—which is why this year there are two nominees from UCLA. We did it together. Matt Farmer carried a whole load on his back, and we just tried to do what we could for our team and ended up with success.

Having the double nominee here tonight really reflects upon our program; we invest in doing things as a group.


Alex Roelse + guest. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

– You’ve graduated, so to speak, to a more prestigious group: the U.S. Senior Men’s Team. What do you expect the transition for UCLA to Team USA to be like?

Adam has instilled some great qualities in us and I hope I can demonstrate those characteristics on the U.S. team. The same intensity and work ethic that has helped me be successful at UCLA I hope to bring to the national team. We can get everybody going in the same direction and I hope to do that by showing the leadership I’ve learned over my four years at UCLA.

Jim Farmer, father to Matt Farmer, 2018 Cutino Award Nominee

– Your son has had a remarkable career so far; how is it to be at The Olympic Club waiting to hear if he’s selected as the country’s best players? 

Just that he was nominated is incredible. I’m at a loss right now; we’ll see what happens and go from there.

He just loves the game. That’s what if comes down to. He had a passion for the game and did what it took to get to the next level, for somebody from the Midwest.

We had a lot of help; the Wendt family was huge on what direction Matt had to take to get him where he wanted to go.


Amanda Longan, Darcy Couch. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Tony Azevedo, 5X Olympian (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016), 4X Cutino Award Winner (2000-03); Keynote speaker at the 2018 Cutino Awards

The big thing about this award is that it’s not just something that you look on paper and it’s the score. Or the guy who one person thinks is the best player. To me this is the guy or girl who’s the all-around best player, the leader of the team, the person who inspires everyone and makes a team better. And to me that’s something that I’ve strived to be.

When I know that this is what the Cutino Award was about. It’s what makes me so proud of winning it and why I’m so honored to speak tonight.

-Winning four Cutinos is a record that will never be beat—and perhaps no one will ever come close to your accomplishment.

Those are the records that you want—to set the bar high for others to beat. That’s the exciting part. 


Stanford’s Tony Azevedo, Mackenzie Fischer and Brenda Villa.Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Brenda Villa, 4X Olympian (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012); Cutino Award winner in 2002

This award is amazing. In the water polo world, we compare it to the Heisman trophy, and that’s what it is. We’re fortunate that The Olympic Club sponsors this award, which our coaches vote on [based upon] your body of work in that season.

We had several amazing finalists—Olympians, gold medalists—it’s amazing who the finalists are each year.

– The sense of community evident in the room:

That’s a blessing and a curse. Tony talked about—now that he’s retired he wants to make this sport both national and global. We love that it’s a small community and that you know everyone.

On the flip side, if we were truly a national and global sport, we would lose some of that. So, I wonder if we really want that. It’s something that I constantly think about because I want it to be more diverse, and be global but I would miss this. I would miss the community. I would miss that you know five people at every table—and if you every needed them, you could call them.

You lose that when you become a big-time sport.


Terry Schroeder, Alex Rodriguez, Dejan Udovicic. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

A number of prominent attendees made it to this year’s Cutino Awards dinner.

Dejan Udovicic, U.S. Men’s Senior National Team Head Coach; 3X Olympic coach (2008, 2012, 2016)

It’s a very big treasure for the United States that we have The Olympic Club and NYAC [New York Athletic Club] on the East Coast—both clubs are representing the U.S. around the world. Something like this doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.

It’s my first time that I’m present and it’s an honor to be here. I feel lucky that we have two national team players [Luc Cupido and Alex Roelse] competing for the Cutino Award. I’m excited to see who will win this award because sometimes you never know!

Everyone’s got an opinion, which we all should respect. My point of view doesn’t need to be the same as someone else’s.

– You’re the coach; you get to make the point of view!

But I’m the national team coach; it’s the college season, so the college coaches vote. I respect that. In the end, it’s exciting.

Terry Schroeder, 4X Olympian as player (1980, 1984, 1988, 1992); 2X Olympian as coach (2008, 2012), Pepperdine Men’s Head coach

Pete Cutino was one of the best. I had an opportunity to play for him in the student games of 1983—it was one of the best experiences I had. Great man, great coach, and I just so appreciate what the family has done for the sport.

It’s an honor to be here and be a part of it—I’m so happy that we have this in our sport.

– The sense of community that exists in this room—I don’t think you find that in any other sport in America.

I love coming to these kinds of events and catching up with people that I haven’t seen for a while. It’s amazing how quickly you catch up—even when you haven’t seen someone for five years. You’re there like it was yesterday.

That’s the reason I’m still involved with this sport. It’s such a fraternity and family. There’s so many good people in this sport.


Members of the Sir Francis Drake Boys Water Polo Team. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Alex Rodriguez, U.S. National Team Assistant Coach, Pomona-Pitzer Men’s and Women’s Head Coach

Pete Cutino is one of the best if not the best coach we’ve ever had in this country. The award is honoring him and honoring the coach.

The event is great; seeing everybody I know. I love how the NorthCal high school kids are here to get to see the [college] players. We do not have enough exposure to these athletes. I don’t know if all these high school players know who Alex Roelse is, or Amanda Longan or Mackenzie Fischer.

I don’t know if younger players know top level players in America as well as they know NBA stars.

I’m really excited for the 2018 athletes being honored and to hear Tony [Azevedo] speak.

Kyle Utsumi, volunteer coach, Stanford Women’s Water Polo, author, Sydney’s Silver Linings

I’m a little younger, and didn’t have a lot of interaction with Pete, but of course this event is a cornerstone of water polo excellence, and that comes from Pete, his family, and his dedication to water polo—which we all celebrate at this event.

It’s a great event from The Olympic Club, and it’s wonderful that they bring together both the men’s and the women’s athletes and the water polo family.

This is where we get to gather every year to celebrate a great year of college water polo and also celebrate our legends of the sport.

– Family is a watchword here; the familial bonds of the sport are quite in evidence.

Water polo’s such an intense sport, but it also has the culture of being welcoming and celebrating together—be that after a match or at an event like this.

What happens in the water we can laugh about and have a good time about away from the pool.


The Olympic Club. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

The Olympic Club did a magnificent job hosting the Cutino Awards dinner and presentation.

Chris Lathrope, Vice President of The Olympic Club; former Cal Water Polo player (class of 2003)

The Olympic Club feels strongly about supporting amateur athletics. Getting to do that in a sport that we have a lot of history in is a special thing and something we’re happy we get to do.

– Pete Cutino is an icon; not just on the West Coast but nationally.

I knew Pete Cutino; he was one of my coaches at Cal, so I’ve got a personal connection.

Everyone in the sport is aware of his contribution. He was a big-time winner who made a lasting impression on everyone that he touched.

People talk about coaching trees—the Bill Walsh coaching tree, for example—every coach now in water polo, [Cutino] probably touched them in some way.

– You mention coaching trees, and Kirk Everist, one of your coaches at Cal, certainly was affected by Cutino.

His passion for the game is impressive. The work he puts in will go up with anyone out there. he’s done a great job recruiting talent and always finds a way to win.

Andy Burke, The Olympic Club Cutino Award Trustee; Member of the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame, legendary player and coach for The Olympic Club.

We’ve been doing this for 19 years and when we started out it was to honor the male and female collegiate players of the year in water polo, but it was also designed to be a celebration of the sport.

As you’ll see in the room and the people who are there, it is a love of sport.

We may be enemies in the water but we’re all friends outside.

– The community of water polo players in America seems to be center on your club.

That’s exactly what we wanted to keep doing this for.


Jovan Vavic, Peter Conte. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Peter Conte, The Olympic Club, Cutino Award Trustee; former Cal Water Polo player (class of 2003); presenter of the 2018 Cutino Awards.

I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this—not only The Olympic Club but the award itself. This is such a tight-knit community and a family environment; water polo players as a whole do battle with each other, they respect each other. Their talent is both rewarded and acknowledged.

Given the atmosphere here, for me to be a part of it is both rewarding and an honor. Even more so this year, when we have such a strong field of candidates. U.S Water Polo has gotten so much attention—both nationally and internationally—I can’t think of a better night to be a part of.

– You are a product of local schools, including the University of California at Berkeley. How special is if for you personally to be announcing the Cutino Award winners tonight?

“Rewarding” doesn’t quite do justice to how honored I am to [be here]; this is such a tremendously talented area. The parents, the coaches, USA Water Polo itself —they do such a good job of fostering the sport up and down California, but for it to be so successful and to have such a strong hold here in this part of the state. I got lucky.

And I’m thankful for that all the time.

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