No. 4 Story of the Year - Special season for women's basketball

No. 4 Story of the Year - Special season for women's basketball

In leading up to the official start of the 2022-23 athletics campaign at Irvine Valley, which starts on Aug. 26 with the IVC women's soccer team playing at Southwestern at 5 p.m. and the Laser women's volleyball team hosting Canyons at 5 p.m., the Irvine Valley athletic department will count down the top 10 sports stories from the 2021-22 school year. 

The No. 4 story on the list for 2021-22 is about the Irvine Valley women's basketball team that had the best season in program history. The Lasers ended with a record of 26-3 overall and won its fourth-straight Orange Empire Conference title. The team reached the CCCAA State Tournament and reached the semifinals before falling. Coach Julie Hanks, who guided the program for 25 years, stepped down from coaching the program this summer. She finished with an amazing record of 440-228 overall at IVC.

The 2021-22 Irvine Valley women's basketball season was was the best in program history at the college.

The Lasers ended with a record of 26-3 overall and won the Orange Empire Conference for the fourth straight year.

IVC fell in the semifinals of state to San Joaquin Delta, 77-74, in a game that went down to the wire at West Hills Lemoore in March.

"It was a special season and we were so close," said Coach Julie Hanks, who guided the program to a record of 100-17 over the last four years. "We were almost there. We did everything the right way."

A record six Irvine Valley players signed with four-year colleges after the 2021-22 season (Morgan Higgins (Westcliff), Katie Nguyen (Westcliff), Paola Roa (Cal State LA), Sarah Matossian (Vanguard), Jessica Suruor (Holy Names) and Rachel Gafford (Simpson).

Both Higgins and Matossian were named first team all-state and Higgins was selected as the conference MVP and offensive player of the year.

The Lasers were ranked among the top teams in the state all season.

Higgins, along with her MVP nod, was named the Offensive Player of the Year after she led the league with 20.1 points-per-game and a 56.6 shooting percentage. Higgins also averaged 4.1 assists and 3.5 steals in the OEC.

She was seventh in the conference with 201 total points and recorded 10 double-digit scoring games.

Hanks earned her second-consecutive Coach of the Year honor after leading her squad to their fourth-consecutive conference title. Her team went a flawless 12-0 in conference play and won each game by 14 or more points.

Several other Laser players were honored. MatossianRoa and Suruor were each named to the first team.

Matossian averaged 17.1 points and 12.1 rebounds, while shooting 56.4 percent from the field in conference, Roa finished the regular season at 17.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.8 steals in conference and Suruor averaged 15.1 points and shot a team-high 38.8 percent from three-point range.

Nguyen and freshman forward Paea Tafea were each selected second team all-conference for IVC.