Azevedo helps USA take fifth in FINA World League Super Final

Americans hold off Spain, 7-6, to wrap up tournament

Stanford grad Tony Azevedo provided one goal to help the USA Men's National Team take home fifth place in the FINA World League Super Final with a 7-6 victory over Spain on Sunday in Nis, Serbia.

Tim Hutten and Jesse Smith helped Team USA rally from an early deficit by scoring two goals each, while goalie Merrill Moses played the entire match and had nine stops.

Spain got off to the hot start by opening up a 3-1 lead after the first quarter. In the second period, the U.S. defense buckled down and held Spain scoreless while the USA offense scored twice for a 3-3 deadlock.

The third quarter saw Team USA on the offensive again as it tallied three goals to grab a 6-4 lead. In the final period, Spain rallied with two goals but the Americans had enough to hold on for the victory.

The USA converted only two of seven power-play goals, but held Spain to 3-of-11 shooting in man advantages. Next up for Team USA is the FINA World Cup in Oradea, Romania. The United States will open action against China on July 27.

Team USA reached the fifth-place match with a 13-6 win over China on Saturday. Azevedo scored four goals while fellow Stanford grad Peter Varellas added three.

Team USA saw its medal hopes disappear on Friday with a 13-11 loss to Croatia.

Croatia jumped out a strong start in the opening period to take a 5-2 lead. In the second quarter, the U.S. kept pace by scoring three goals. Trailing 8-5 at halftime, the USA kept chipping away in this high-scoring contest posting four goals in the third. That, however, was answered by five scores from Croatia as it built a 13-9 lead going into the final stanza.

The USA went just seven of 14 on power plays in the losing effort.

On Thursday, things went sour for Team USA in an 11-9 loss to Montenegro. The loss dropped the USA to 2-1 in group play.

"We did enough things to win," said U.S. coach Terry Schroeder. "We just failed to convert our 6 on 5. Tough to win when you go 2 for 11."

Tied at 7-7 after regulation the teams entered into a penalty shootout with Montenegro able to convert four penalty shots to just two from the United States. Azevedo scored twice for Team USA, including a penalty shot.

The United States got off to a good start and led by 2-1 after the first quarter, but Montenegro battled back to grab a 4-3 lead at halftime. In the third quarter, each team notched a score as Montenegro took a 5-4 advantage into the final period. In the fourth, the USA rallied with three goals to force the shootout.

On Wednesday, Azevedo and fellow Stanford grad Peter Varellas each scored a goal to help the USA post its second straight victory, an 11-5 triumph over China in the second round.

Team USA and China were evenly matched to start as the Americans held just a 3-2 lead after the opening quarter. The U.S. grabbed the momentum in the second period with three unanswered goals for a 6-2 halftime advantage.

The second half was more of the same as the USA built an 8-3 lead after the third quarter and then pulled away for the victory, despite converting just one of five power-play goals and making one of two penalty shots.

Goalies Merrill Moses and Andy Stevens teamed up to stop a combined 21 shots.

In other national water polo news, the USA Women's Junior National Team is set to hold a four nations tournament next week (July 20-25) at the USA Water Polo National Training Center in Los Alamitos. The tourney will feature Team USA alongside Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

Stanford goalie Kate Baldoni is on the Junior National 'A' team, while Julia Peters of the Stanford Water Polo Club is on the 'B' team. Goalies Emily Dorst of Menlo-Atherton High and Evan Cranston of Castilleja are on the Women's 93 Training Group.

-- Palo Alto Online Sports/USA Water Polo

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