Stanford grad and four-time All-American Tony Azevedo scored all three of his goals in the third period to bring the United States men's national water polo team within reach, but Croatia turned back the rally and went on to beat the Americans, 11-9, in the semifinals of the FINA World Cup in at Oradea, Romania on Saturday.
The U.S. plays in the third-place match on Sunday against Spain.
Azevedo scored with 10 seconds left in the third period to bring the U.S. within 8-7 entering the final period. Ryan Bailey tied the match for the Americans with 5:15 remaining to play.
Croatia responded with three unanswered goals to take control and advance to the championship match.
"We gave up some goals at some critical times especially on our five-man defense," U.S. coach Terry Schroeder said. "We will be ready for the third place game."
The United States converted two of six power plays while Croatia took advantage on six of its 10 power plays.
The Croatians beat the U.S., 9-7, during pool play.
The United States National Collegiate Team will meet Chinese Taipei on Sunday in group play of the World University Baseball Championships in Tokyo.
The Americans opened with a 15-0 victory over Sri Lanka. Canada, which beat Sri Lanka 18-0 on Saturday, is also in the group.
In Group B competition, Cuba beat South Korea, 18-0, and Japan topped China, 15-0.