Expectations have been high since Ligurian Luca Cupido descended on Orange County to complete his secondary schooling at Newport Harbor High School in 2013. His goal was to beef up the skills necessary to attend a top-flight California university. And along the way he’d graciously share some of his prodigious water polo skills with one of the most storied prep programs in the US.
Since then he helped the Sailors to the semis of the CIF Championship tournament, gained admission to the University of California, was named Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Newcomer of the Year in 2014, and got called up to the US Men’s Senior National Team. As his school’s daily put it, Cupido is poised for “superstardom” at the age of 20.
A youngster in a sport where many elite athletes peak at around 30. But good news for fans of American water polo who are witnessing the rise of a new generation of athletes who have taken to being sculpted by national team head coach Dejan Udovicic.
Team Serbia is visiting the US for the second consecutive summer to train with and compete against the Americans in a series of four exhibition matches. The team is missing some key players, is resting others, and has promoted younger ones from their endlessly deep pool of talent. So gauging any improvement of Team USA in relation to this altered Serbian side must be guarded.
Even so, Cupido and his teammates have beaten the European champions three consecutive times after having failed to do so even once since 2008. Exhibition or not, that appears to be progress.
More on the team’s dramatic finish with the help of the Cal sophomore by OC Varsity, plus a video of the game in its entirety.
Former Newport Harbor attacker Luca Cupido scored two power-play goals in the final 45 seconds of the fourth period, including the winner with two seconds remaining, to lift the Americans last Serbia, 11-10, on Sunday night for their third consecutive victory against the reigning European champion…
“I knew it was my shot and I had to take it,” said Cupido, who finished with two goals to share the team-lead with Azevedo, center John Mann (Corona del Mar) and newcomer Alex Roelse. “Fortunately, it went in.”
Udovicic offered strong praise for Cupido, who also made two outstanding entry passes to Mann at center, “I think Luca is one of the most talented players right now in his age (group) in the world. I think he can be groomed to improve.”
The last of the four friendlies takes place in Chicago on Tuesday.