The score was 4-0 before the U.S. men's national water polo team blinked and it never got much better as the Americans fell to Croatia 17-7 in preliminary play at the Nambu University Aquatics Center in Gwangju, South Korea on Wednesday.
Johnny Hooper got the Americans on the board with 22 seconds remaining in the first period and they were still within 7-4 on Alex Obert's six-mater goal midway through the second period before things started to unravel for the U.S.
Croatia scored the next four goals and the Americans never got closer than six goals the rest of the way.
Former Stanford All-American Alex Bowen and Cardinal junior Ben Hallock, the reigning national Player of the Year, each scored for the Americans (8-3, 1-1), who meet Australia on Friday for the chance to advance into the championship round.
Alex Wolf stopped 6 of 19 shots for the U.S. before Drew Holland, who holds Stanford's all-time saves record with 925, came on to stop 2 of 6 shots. The Americans were 2 of 9 on power plays and did not attempt a penalty shot.
Bowen scored his goal with 6:31 remaining to play before the Croatians scored the final four goals of the match. Hallock scored with two minutes left in the third period.