Jocelyn Manderino wrote a telling quote on her Twitter account, @flip612, before the big game.
"Never give up; for even rivers someday wash dams away," Manderino posted, the quote attributed to Arthur Golden. She added two hashtags, "#gameday" and "#drownthequeens."
The first-year Northwood High boys' water polo coach was certainly familiar with rival Corona del Mar in her high school days at Newport Harbor. As a senior, she helped the Sailors win their first CIF Southern Section Division 1 girls' title in 1999.
On Thursday afternoon at CdM, the Manderino-coached Timberwolves dealt the Sea Kings a historic loss.
Perhaps the dam finally has broken in the Pacific Coast League.
Northwood built a big lead and hung on for an 11-10 upset victory, moving into outright first place in league halfway through the league schedule. In the process, the Timberwolves dealt the Sea Kings their first league loss in a decade. CdM's last loss in league came in 2003, also to Northwood.
For the Timberwolves, Thursday's victory meant a lot to the program. They blitzed CdM on its senior day, building an 11-3 lead late in the third quarter.
It also meant a lot to four-year varsity players like John Hartshorne, Jason Lee and Josh Hayashi. Hartshorne led the visitors with four goals, while Lee and Hayashi scored two each. Lee added two field blocks and three steals, which tied him for the team lead.
"It being my senior year, getting a shot at CdM and having a shot at the league title is a great opportunity," Lee said. "We have to play them one more time, so obviously we can't let up, but I feel like we have a really good shot at beating them again ... For a lot of the players on the team, the thing that scared them the most was just the name CdM. But we just told ourselves, they're just another team. Woodbridge lost to them by one, and we beat Woodbridge. We had a great shot at them. Honestly, I think we're better than them overall. We have multiple weapons on the team, and it's hard to stop that."
Northwood (12-5, 5-0) did not come out tentative against CdM (9-8, 4-1), the No. 5-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division 1. The Timberwolves took a 4-0 lead after the first quarter, on a pair of goals by Hartshorne and strikes by Lee and Hayashi (six-on-five).
CdM tried to rally, led by junior Jack Trush. He scored the Sea Kings' first goal midway through the second, then earned a pair of penalty shots. Senior Jay Neiger, who led CdM with five goals, put away each one. The second one narrowed CdM's deficit to 4-3 with 2:19 left in the second quarter.
But Northwood scored two more six-on-five goals to build a 6-3 halftime advantage. The Timberwolves then scored the first five goals of the third quarter to build a dominant lead.
For the game, Northwood converted five of six power-play opportunities. CdM was one for five.
"Today was a good day for six-on-five," Manderino said. "Some days, you never know, and today everything clicked. That's all you can hope for at the end of the season, that things start clicking. Things are clicking for us right now, so let's hope we can maintain it."
The lead still almost went away in the fourth quarter. CdM Coach Barry O'Dea started sending his players into the offensive zone early, and Manderino admitted later that her team panicked a bit. CdM scored six straight goals, the last one on a power move by senior Matt Sherburne. That brought CdM within a goal, at 11-10, with 2:27 left.
The Sea Kings had their best chance to tie the score with about a minute left, on a drive inside by senior Logan Piper. Two defenders and Northwood goalie Tim Shaw converged on Piper, but no foul was called, and Northwood got the steal and hung on. Shaw (10 saves) charged out of the goal to steal the ball again after a full-court pass with about 25 seconds left, icing the victory.
Michael Garas also had three clutch goals for Northwood, two of them from the outside with the shot clock running down. Matt Farrell (three steals) and J.J. Meador (two steals and two field blocks) also aided the Timberwolves' defensive effort.
"Listen, they came to play," said O'Dea, whose team lost in league for the first time in his nine-year tenure. "They played better than we did for three quarters. They've been good. They had some good players last year, and they've been putting it together. Jocelyn has done a good job with that group.
"Our guys took a little while to get going, obviously. It's a learning moment for them. It's something that they've been doing a little bit this year, and now they're getting a really big lesson in how they have to come out and start a game ... It was tough. The guys are feeling it right now, but it's one of those things that's bound to happen at some point."
O'Dea said after the game that he needed to look at Piper's play again on video, but that he had inside water.
"At any other point in the game, it seemed like that was going to be a penalty or an exclusion," he said. "A no-call is tough, but that's not the difference. We're trying to make up a seven-goal deficit; I can't blame the game on one call at the end of the game."
Sherburne and Trush each scored twice for the Sea Kings, although Northwood ran an effective drop defense to keep the ball out of Sherburne's hands as much as possible. Charlie Rodosky added a goal and senior keeper Ryan Hamm made seven saves. Junior Ashton Jajonie led the Sea Kings with three steals.
The teams play again in the league finale at Northwood on Nov. 5. By then, Northwood could be going for an undefeated league title. CdM has won at least a share of 14 straight Pacific Coast League titles.
"Unfortunately, I'm used to Newport going single round [in league]," Manderino said. "I have to do this all over again, so it's a little nerve-wracking. It's been busy, it's been a little crazy, but the boys are responding very well and that's all you can ask for as a coach. They're doing it, thank goodness."