Stanford grads Tony Azevedo and Layne Beaubien each scored a goal but the USA national men's water polo team fell to Italy, 8-5, during pool play at the FINA World Championships in Shanghai on Wednesday.
The Americans fell to 0-2 in group play and will meet South Africa Friday. A victory would give the U.S. the opportunity to recover and remain in medal competition. A loss would relegate the Americans to no better than 13th place.
The top teams from each group are guaranteed a spot in Tuesday's quarterfinals. The remaining contending teams play Sunday.
A win over South Africa would most likely mean a meeting with Canada.
"We just have a tougher path, you know to put it in a positive way, we need the games," U.S. coach Terry Schroeder said. "We're hopefully going to get better as the tournament goes along. We need a little stronger effort defensively. We try to hold teams under six goals, we're not there yet, we've got some work to do."
The U.S. was within 4-3 early in the third period, thanks in large part to Beaubien's goal with 37 seconds remaining in the first half, before the Italians took control of the contest.
"We gave up too many bad goals," Schroeder said. "We didn't do a very good job of getting the ball to our centers. We've got to be able to get the ball into the centers more to be effective. If we aren't scoring from outside than we aren't going to be able to get the ball into our centers and if our centers aren't effective than the outside shooters aren't going to be as close in."
Women's water polo
The U.S. meets Kazakhstan on Thursday in the final round of pool play at the FINA World Championships in Shanghai.
If the Americans (1-0-1) finish first in their group, they will be seeded directly into Monday's quarterfinals. A second-place finish would mean a game on Saturday, most likely against New Zealand.