Stanford grad Tony Azevedo and the United States national men's water polo team have a tough road ahead to the 2012 London Olympics unless the Americans can do something special over the next few days.
They took a positive first step.
The U.S. dropped an 11-5 decision to Serbia on the final day of pool play at the FINA World League Super Final in Florence, Italy, on Thursday.
The Americans came back to beat Montenegro, 10-9, in a shootout in Friday's quarterfinal match to reach the semifinals.
Azevedo and fellow Stanford grad Peter Varellas each scored once in regulation and again during the shootout.
Azevedo's goal came with eight seconds remaining in the fourth period, tying it at 6-6.
The U.S. will play the winner of a later match between Italy and Australia.
The Americans, who have won only once in three pool-play matches, need to win two more games to secure the automatic berth into next year's Olympics and earn the $100,000 prize money.
The U.S. claimed its third Olympics' silver medal in Beijing three years ago and still looks to claim a spot among the sport's elite.
Azevedo, the team captain, hopes to participate in his fourth Olympics next summer. Stanford grads Peter Hudnut, Varellas and Layne Beaubien are also looking to make the trip to London.
Azevedo scored his only goal against Serbia in the first period, tying the match at 1-1. It was all Serbia the rest of the way.
Azevedo scored four goals as the Americans beat China, 13-6, Wednesday morning after dropping a 10-4 match to host Italy a day earlier.
Azevedo scored the first goal of the contest against China and the U.S. never trailed, though it was close through the first half.
The Americans broke it open in the third period, with Hudnut scoring one of his two goals in the contest. Varellas also scored for the U.S.
Italy scored eight of the first nine goals of the match before Hudnut broke the string with 1:03 left in the third period.