By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor
Yesterday, The Olympic Club of San Francisco announced the 2017-2018 Cutino Award finalists. The female finalists are: Makenzie Fischer of Stanford; Paige Hauschild and Amanda Longan from USC. The male finalists, who were previously announced last December, are: Luca Cupido of Cal; Luke Pavillard from the University of the Pacific; Matt Farmer and Alex Roelse of UCLA.
This award is given annually to the outstanding female and male Collegiate water polo players in the United States as voted by the coaches of the Division I schools. The winners will be announced at the 19th Annual Cutino Awards Dinner to be held Saturday June 2, 2018 at The Olympic Club’s City Clubhouse in San Francisco.
The woman’s side presents intrigue. All season Fischer (66 goals) has been a driving force for the Cardinal, losers in Sunday’s national title final to USC. The Trojan’s Longan (22 matches / 5.24 goals against) was just named the 2018 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year. Including Hauschild on this year’s ballot is an acknowledgement of just how much impact the freshman had this season on USC’s fortunes.
With 68 goals this season, Hauschild is now the top goal scorer for a true freshman in program history. And, none other than Jovan Vavic anointed his young protégé as: “[O]ne of the best freshmen who’s ever played Division I water polo. She’s dominant in every aspect: defense, offense, finishing. She never loses a sprint. She’s just a complete player.”
There’s no question that Hauschild has the potential to be a once-in-a decade talent. Given that goalies McQuin Baron and Ashleigh Johnson swept the 2017 Cutino awards, will the voters on the women’s side again select a goalie? If not, the race is between a superb sophomore—Fischer has already won an Olympic gold (2016)—and a fantastic freshman,
One might again wonder how Maddie Musselman—who last season established UCLA’s record for a true freshman (69 goals) and was an integral contributor for a Bruin squad that came up one goal short in the 2017 national championship final to Maggie Steffens’ Stanford squad—was left off the 2017 Cutino ballot. Oh, and Musselman followed up her freshman year with a strong second campaign: 53 goals and 31 assists.
The Hauschild / Musselman comparisons will be one to watch the next few years.
On the men’s side, it’s hard to see how Cupido isn’t a lock for the 2018 Cutino. Not only did he lead all MPSF scorers with 58 goals, he was the conference’s 2017 Player of the Year, has already played in one Olympics (2016) and is almost certain to again represent the United States in 2020 at the Tokyo Games—if Team USA qualifies.
But, given last year’s upset win by Johnson last year over three-time NCAA champ and two-time gold medalist Steffens, perhaps nothing is a given when Division I coaches from all over the country get to vote. A sentimental choice—though highly unlikely given the strength of Cupido’s candidacy—is Matt Farmer (29 goals), the under-sized center who won three titles with the Bruins. A Chicago native, Farmer’s diligence and commitment to winning was a perfect complement to UCLA Head Coach Adam Wright’s defense-driven formula for success.
Even though he’s a long-shot for the award, the inclusion of Pacific’s
(81 goals, 31 assists) in conversations about the best players in America is an acknowledgement of just how good the Aussie left-hander was all season. Already part of the Australian National Team, the Tigers’ super sophomore has two more season to make his case for the Cutino voters.
Last—but certainly not least—is Alex Roelse (35 goals). The Dutch native who holds U.S. citizenship has already represented his adopted country in the Rio Games, is on the roster for the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team that will look to qualify for the 2020 Games.
The award is given annually in honor of the late Peter J. Cutino, the former University of California Berkeley and The Olympic Club coach, who passed away in September 2004. Mr. Cutino is in the U.S. Water Polo Hall of Fame.
He won “Water Polo Coach of the Year” 17 times. He led U.C. Berkeley to eight NCAA National Championships. In his career Mr. Cutino also coached in the Pan American Games, the Water Polo World Championships and the World University Games.
With content from The Olympic Club