Australia's women's water polo team were forced to relive their Beijing Olympic heartbreak as the United States again shattered the Stingers' gold medal dreams in London.

For the second successive Games, Australia suffered a narrow loss to the US in the semi-finals on Tuesday, ensuring the best medal they can collect is bronze.

Stingers coach Greg McFadden had made no secret of the fact his side was gunning for gold in London and he and his players were gutted after a dramatic 11-9 extra-time loss.

"It's hard for everyone, it doesn't matter whether you were there (Beijing) four years ago or the girls who are at their first Olympics," McFadden said.

"They came here with the same dream as those girls and any loss in a semi-final is devastating."

In a see-sawing match, the US gained the ascendancy with Melissa Seidemann's late goal and, after Stingers captain Kate Gynther's shot was denied by the cross bar, it looked like Australia would go down in normal time.

But there was late drama, with the US conceding a penalty because coach Adam Krikorian called a timeout despite his side not being in possession.

"It was a big mistake on my part and I could have cost us the game," Krikorian said.

Southern stepped up to convert for her fourth goal to send the game into extra time at 9-9.

Maggie Steffens put the Americans in front early in overtime with her fourth goal before Kami Craig scored in the dying seconds of the first period to create a buffer Australia never really looked like closing.

McFadden said his side's gruelling 20-18 quarter-final win over China in a penalty shoot out after extra time may have drained his players emotionally but believed they were simply outplayed.

"Getting beaten by America is no embarrassment," McFadden said.

"They have probably been the most consistent team for the last Olympic cycle.

"Very rarely are they beaten and today they were too good for us.

"But I'm proud of the girls, they showed some great character."

McFadden said the Stingers would regroup in time for Thursday's bronze medal playoff, against either Hungary or Spain.

"We're not going home empty handed," McFadden said.

After losing 9-8 to the USA in the semis in Beijing, Australia rebounded to beat Hungary in the bronze medal game and Gynther said the players would use that as motivation.

"In the end, bronze isn't bad. It's a hell of a lot better than going home in fourth. We want to finish this tournament on a high and a bronze medal would be the way to do it," she said.

The Australian's will on Thursday play a rematch of that Beijing bronze medal play-off after Hungary lost their semi-final to Spain.

Spain meanwhile advances to the final against the United States also on Thursday.

NZ Newswire