AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant “I think we have a little more heart this year. We saw how close we were last year and this year we have the talent to do it.” Entering last year’s second-round game against Thousand Oaks, the Bulldogs had lost only twice in 25 matches and were riding the momentum of an 11-game winning streak. But several missed opportunities in the first half came back to haunt them, and the 4-2 loss was their first defeat at home all season. Although Highland (20-2-3) faces its longest trip this season when it plays at Santa Barbara (13-6-5), it is determined to return home for Friday’s quarterfinals. Highland is 9-0-0 at home this season, including Saturday’s dramatic 2-1 first-round victory over Canyon of Canyon Country. “We’ve proven that we’re able to come through in the clutch and play well when it matters most,” said Drenner, who made six saves against Canyon – four on point-blank shots inside 20 yards – to increase her season total to 90. “Even now, more than ever, we need to do whatever it takes to keep our season alive.” Drenner has made it possible for Highland to survive a number of close calls this season by challenging opposing players on breakaways, punching balls over the crossbar on free kicks and making several diving saves on shots inside the box. Michelle Moore’s breakaway goal in the 76th minute Saturday was only the 10th surrendered by Drenner this season. It was two other crucial stops on Moore and one on Gina Walker that drew the praise of Canyon coach Steve Ladanyi, whose team lost to Highland for the second consecutive year. “She played a fantastic game,” Ladanyi said of Drenner. “She made three or four saves where I was just shaking my head, wishing we had her on our side.” Seeing Drenner rise to the occasion is something Highland coach Juan Paolo has witnessed all season. The 17-year-old netminder came through with a number of spectacular saves in a 1-1 tie Jan. 26 against Quartz Hill, none more important than the stop on Stephanie Galarze’s breakaway with time winding down in the second half. In the regular-season finale at Lancaster, Drenner helped preserve a 1-0 victory and an unbeaten league season by surviving a collision with Lynn Huma to catch a ball in the air at the edge of the box in the final five minutes. “That’s what I’m going to miss most with Kellie back there,” Paolo said. “The way she handles herself in those situations, she’s amazing.” Since last year’s loss to Thousand Oaks, Drenner has established more of a presence on the field for the Bulldogs, not just with her actions, but also with her voice. “I’m much more confident this year,” Drenner said. “I’ve worked hard as a player, and it has paid off. I’ve just found myself loving the game so much more.” That desire to succeed elevated when Drenner fulfilled one of her childhood dreams by signing with a Division I college. “She’s worked so hard to get to this point,” Paolo said. ” She’s very deserving of the opportunity.” Drenner knows the unforgiving nature of the playoffs means, as a senior, every time she steps on the field could be her last at Highland. A victory today would not only help extend her dream season at least two more days, it also would send Highland to the quarterfinals for the first time in program history. “To be that team that makes it to the third round or to the finals would be incredible,” Drenner said. “I’m loving every minute of this, and I don’t want it to end.” Erik Boal, (818) 713-3607 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Kellie Drenner calls it her “season of dreams.” Highland High’s senior goalkeeper has recorded 15 shutouts, helped the Bulldogs’ girls’ soccer team win its second consecutive Golden League title and signed to play at Cal State Northridge in the fall. For all her accomplishments, Drenner believes the season will be incomplete without at least one more victory in the Southern Section Div. II playoffs. “We definitely want to get as far as we can in the postseason,” said Drenner, who leads Highland at Santa Barbara today at 3 p.m. “It means as much, if not more, to me than winning the Golden League.