The United States men's national water polo team will have its work cut out for it between now and the 2012 Olympics in London. The Americans are close but a few things need to be refined as the team looks to equal or improve upon its silver medal performance at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Stanford grad Peter Varellas scored three goals but the Americans never recovered from a slow start and fell to Spain, 11-10, in the fifth-place match at the FINA World Championships in Shanghai, China on Saturday.
"We've got to go back home and get the next year together and work hard together and learn to really play for each other and become better as a team," U.S. coach Terry Schroeder said. "We're just not doing the simple things well; not making our passes to center, getting caught between a zone and a press. We have to be able to do those little things in order to succeed."
The loss bumps the team to sixth in the world, from fourth, heading into the Pan American Games in October in Mexico.
"I think the biggest thing we know is we're not 100 percent," U.S. attacker Brian Alexander said. "Coming away with sixth place is not a great result but it's OK. We are definitely on our way back up, we know we can beat any team."
Spain took a 4-0 lead in the first period before Stanford grad Tony Azevedo scored to slow the bleeding. Former Cardinal All-American Peter Hudnut also scored for the U.S.
Spain held an 11-8 lead at one point in the final period before the U.S. made a run. The Americans scored their final goal with 24 seconds remaining to play.
Varellas, Azevedo and Ryan Bailey each scored 11 goals for the U.S. during championship competition.
"We have a lot ahead of us; 363 days from (Saturday) are the opening ceremonies for the Olympics," Alexander said. "We are going to be working hard and training hard. This is a good marker to let us know where we are now."
Team USA went 3-of-8 on power plays and converted its sole penalty shot. Spain was 4-of-7 on power plays and did not attempt any penalty shots.
Stanford grad Trent Edwards has agreed to terms Saturday to play quarterback with the Oakland Raiders this season.
Edwards was with the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars last year. He was drafted by the Bills in the third round of the 2007 draft and started nine games for them that season.
Edwards has appeared in 36 NFL games, 32 starts, throwing for 5,879 yards and 25 touchdowns.