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Northwood strength on display in wild-card rout
IRVINE - If it looks like a third-place team, smells like a third-place team and inevitably finishes the regular season as a third-place team then, by all accounts, it's a third-place team.
Well, not necessarily.
Despite finishing third in the ultra-competitive Pacific Coast League, Northwood (15-4) displayed all the skill, balance and seasoning of a league champion in its 18-0 rout of Campbell Hall of Hollywood in the CIF-SS Division 1 wild-card round on Tuesday afternoon at Northwood High.
"In a way, it motivates us," Timberwolves singles player Calvin Ngo said of his team's seeding. "We know we played in the hardest league and could be the No. 1 team in a lot of other leagues. It's tough, but you deal with it and let it motivate you to go farther (in the playoffs)."
Northwood will visit South Coast League champion San Clemente on Wednesday at 3 p.m.
"It's a challenge to play on back-to-back days," Timberwolves coach Eric Keith said. "We usually don't like to do that in the regular season, but luckily we got a chance to sub some guys out today and get some reserves a few reps.
"The good thing about a match like this is that a lot of guys got to play CIF tennis. It's good to get these guys some experience and the feeling that they contributed to a team win."
After reaching the semifinals of last week's PCL singles tournament, Northwood's Julian Ruffin - like Ngo - won his two sets, 6-0.
"It was nice to play a match to get everything flowing again," Ngo said. "We had a chance to get our strokes on point and our timing going."
A testament to the unparalleled, top-to-bottom strength of the Pacific Coast League, each of the top four teams - University, Corona del Mar, Northwood and Woodbridge - finished the season ranked eighth or better in Division 1 and each made the playoffs.
To boot, University, the defending CIF champion, and Corona del Mar enter the postseason as the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams, respectively, in the bracket.
"Every team is tough," Keith said of the PCL. "There's no real down match because every match has its obstacles and challenges. I think guys learn to focus and stay ready for every point.
"You can't take anything off in league and that's what CIF is all about."