USC Water Polo’s Denise Mammolito, Maud Megens, Jacob Mercep Named Cutino Award Finalists
After a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Peter J. Cutino Award is back, with three Trojans named finalists for collegiate water polo's highest honor. On the women's side, NCAA champion teammates Denise Mammolito and Maud Megens have been named finalists, while Jacob Mercep is one of the three male finalists. It's the first such honor for all three Trojan standouts, all of whom are coming off of stellar performances in the past season. The Cutino Awards Night presentation will be held virtually this year at 6 p.m. PT on September 2, streamed at YouTube.com/USAWP and Facebook.com/USAWP.
This is the seventh time in program history that USC has two women named finalists for the Cutino Award, following back-to-back finalists Paige Hauschild and Amanda Longan in 2018 and 2019. Longan is USC's last winner after claiming the Cutino in 2018 after USC's run to the NCAA title that year. In 2016, Stephania Haralabidis and Brigitta Games were named finalists, and Haralabidis came away with USC's seventh Cutino Award on the women's side. Prior to that, USC doubled up on female finalists in 2006 (Lauren Wenger & Brittany Hayes), 2009 (Kami Craig & Michelle Stein) and 2010 (Kami Craig & Tumua Anae). In all, Mammolito and Megens have run USC's total count of Cutino Award finalist selections to 21.
Since the award's inception in 1999, USC women have collected eight Cutino Awards. Past USC women's Cutino Award winners are: Bernice Orwig (1999), Aniko Pelle (2000), Moriah Van Norman (2004), Lauren Wenger (2006), Kami Craig (2009 & 2010), Stephania Haralabidis (2016) and Amanda Longan (2018).
A four-time All-American, super senior Denise Mammolito was a captain and USC's top scorer in its run to the historic 2021 NCAA Championship — her second as a Trojan. The 2021 season was her fifth with the Trojans, as she had her eligibility extended with the cancellation of 2020 competition. This final year at USC was arguably her best, as she led USC with 51 goals scored and with 13 multiple-goal outings, including a seven-goal outburst in an overtime win over Stanford. With this year's efforts, Mammolito cracked the USC's career top-10, ranked No. 10 with 174 career goals as a Trojan. She also was a two-time All-MPSF First Team selection.
With a combined 💯﹢1️⃣ goals scored in 2021, Trojan seniors and✌️-time natty champs @Maudmegens and @denmammo are BOTH women's finalists for collegiate water polo's highest honor, the Peter J. Cutino Award! So proud!#FightOn 🏆 pic.twitter.com/DGKhCAabZx
— USC Water Polo (@USCWaterPolo) August 14, 2021
Redshirt senior Maud Megens closed out her USC career by scoring six goals for USC in the NCAA final, a fitting finish to her Trojan career before becoming a first-time Olympian in Tokyo with the Netherlands. With her 50 goals scored in 2021, Megens wrapped her time at Troy ranked No. 6 all-time in scoring with 213 career goals. Just the fifth Trojan to be named ACWPC National Player of the Year, Megens is a four-time All-American as well as a two-time NCAA champion. Megens also was named MPSF Player of the Year and NCAA and MPSF Tournament MVP in 2021.
On the men's side, Jacob Mercep's selection as a finalist marks the 14th time a Trojan has been named a finalist for the Cutino Award. The most recent such occasion featured two 2016 finalists — Blake Edwards and McQuin Baron. Baron won the Cutino Award that year, claiming the sixth trophy for USC 's men. In all, USC's past male Cutino Award winners are: Juraj Zatovic (2005), J.W. Krumpholz (2008 & 2009), Joel Dennerley (2011), Kostas Genidounias (2014) and McQuin Baron (2016).
Who's up for the Heisman 🏆 of water polo? ⬇️THIS GUY!⬇️
Congrats to Jacob Mercep on being named a men's finalist for the Peter J. Cutino Award! #FightOn ✌️ pic.twitter.com/hbVHfKmZtM
— USC Water Polo (@USCWaterPolo) August 13, 2021
A three-time First Team All-American with another season to play with the Trojans, Jacob Mercep was USC's top scorer in the men's shortened 2020-21 season with 39 goals. He has scored 151 goals as a Trojan to rank No. 11 all-time on USC's scoring charts. This past season, he set a new career high with a seven-goal outburst in a win over UCLA on the first day of 2021 competition. He was also named to the NCAA All-Tournament First Team and MPSF All-Tournament Team this year, and earned an MPSF Player of the Week selection. With his high-powered efforts, Mercep helped USC reach the NCAA final in the Trojans' 16th straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The other men's finalists for these 2020-21 Cutino Awards are Nicolas Saveljic (UCLA) and Nikolaos Papanikolaou (Cal). On the women's side, Mammolito and Megens are joined by Stanford's Sarah Klass as finalists.
Established in 1999, 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 UC Berkeley to eight NCAA National Championships. In his career, Cutino also coached in the Pan American Games, the Water Polo World Championships and the World University Games.
All-time Peter J. Cutino Award winners:
1998-99 - Bernice Orwig (USC)
1999-2000 - Sean Kern (UCLA) & Aniko Pelle (USC)
2000-01 - Sean Kern (UCLA) & Coralie Simmons (UCLA)
2001-02 - Tony Azevedo (Stanford) & Brenda Villa (Stanford)
2002-03 - Tony Azevedo (Stanford) & Jackie Frank (Stanford)
2003-04 - Tony Azevedo (Stanford) & Moriah Van Norman (USC)
2004-05 - Tony Azevedo (Stanford) & Natalie Golda (UCLA)
2005-06 - Juraj Zatovic (USC) & Lauren Wenger (USC)
2006-07 - John Mann (Cal) & Kelly Rulon (UCLA)
2007-08 - Tim Hutten (UC Irvine) & Courtney Mathewson (UCLA)
2008-09 - J.W. Krumpholz (USC) & Kami Craig (USC)
2009-10 - J.W. Krumpholz (USC) & Kami Craig (USC)
2010-11 - Ivan Rackov (California) & Annika Dries (Stanford)
2011-12 - Joel Dennerley (USC) & Kiley Neushel (Stanford)
2012-13 - Balazs Erdelyi (Pacific) & Melissa Seidemann (Stanford)
2013-14 - Balazs Erdelyi (Pacific) & Annika Dries (Stanford)
2014-15 - Kostas Genidounias (USC) & Kiley Neushel (Stanford)
2015-16 - Garrett Danner (UCLA) & Stephania Haralabidis (USC)
2016-17 - McQuin Baron (USC) & Ashleigh Johnson (Princeton)
2017-18 - Luca Cupido (Cal) & Amanda Longan (USC)
2018-19 - Ben Hallock (Stanford) & Makenzie Fischer (Stanford)
2019-20 - Ben Hallock (Stanford)