"It's amazing to be No. 1 in the nation," said Bellarmine senior Clark Mackintosh. "We were supposed to be a rebuilding team this season. We showed everybody in the CCS and the rest of the nation what we could do."
Bellarmine's perfect season included victories over Texas' No. 1 private school Strake Jesuit, Florida state finalist Clearwater Central Catholic and Florida state semifinalists Flagler Palm Coast and Bolles School. In addition, the Bells won all but one league match by at least two goals in the competitive West Catholic Athletic League.
Bellarmine started eight seniors in Friday's final -- four have signed with NCAA Division I programs and three other key players are nearing decisions. Two more could commit as early as this week.
"I'd like to say I told you so," Lowney said with a laugh. In the preseason, Lowney felt confident the Bells were a Top 5 winter program. "I had a really good feeling."
More importantly, the Bells backed it up with results, capped with Friday's final.
Once again, Gabe Garcia teamed up with the Hatzke brothers -- Nick and Matt -- to spark the Bells' offense.
In the 12th minute, Matt Hatzke, one of two sophomore starters in the lineup, scored on a Garcia assist. Nine minutes later, Nick Hatzke powered a header into the net off a perfect cross by Garcia.
At 2-0 early, it appeared the match could turn into a rout. However, in the 28th minute, Colm Shalvey was red-carded and the Bells played a man down the rest of the evening.
Watsonville failed to put a shot on goal in the first half, however made the match interesting in the final 40 minutes. A Watsonville shot in the 41st minute eluded Bellarmine keeper Joey Buttitta, but Brian Moore was there to head the ball out of danger. A few minutes later, Miguel Silva had an opportunity on a corner kick miss the mark.
Bellarmine also failed on a few second-half scoring chances, leaving the final 2-0.
"We were battling down to the very end," Lowney said. "We were lucky to survive. When the last whistle blew, we were all go -- until they told us to stop playing."
NOTES -- Bellarmine claimed its 10th CCS title in 13 championship match appearances. ... The Bells are 5-0 against Watsonville in section tournament play and 51-10-1 all-time. Watsonville was making its 26th straight CCS tournament appearance, Bellarmine has qualified for the tournament the past 20 years. ... The Bells' 25 wins were a school record to go along with the program's first perfect season. ... The 2000 Bells national title team went 23-0-2. ... Watsonville finished the season 16-3-6. ... In the Division II final, Santa Cruz and Pioneer played to a 1-1 draw after regulation and two overtime periods. The CCS does not hold penalty kicks or any other method to break ties in section finals.