Irvine Valley's women's basketball team lost four key players from its 2013-14 squad that finished in third place in the Orange Empire Conference and made another trip to the Southern California Regional Playoffs.
But 17th-year coach Julie Hanks believes her team will be just fine this season.
The Lasers are off to a 3-1 start to the year and begin play in the Chaffey Tournament on Friday.
IVC had sophomores Taylor Casey, Kiara King and Jasmine Kennon receive scholarships after finishing successful two-year careers with the Lasers. Freshman Alexis Casillas, who was named first team all-Orange Empire Conference last season, decided not to play this year.
Hanks believes the Lasers still have plenty of talent.
Irvine Valley returns five key sophomores, including one that finished the 2013-14 season strong and was named second team all-conference.
And Hanks has brought in a very talented group of freshmen.
"We are pretty young right now and still learning," Hanks said. "My hope is that we compete in the conference and have a chance to win it. That is our ultimate goal. Our expectations right now are just to be as competitive as we can."
Hanks said strengths of the team include guard play and the return of sophomore center Breanna Turner, who was named second team all-conference after ending the 2013-14 season with some strong performances.
Turner scored in double figures in six of 12 conference games and had 17 points in wins over Cypress, Santa Ana and Fullerton. She finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds in a win over Fullerton.
Turner had games of 17, 17 and 15 rebounds to end last season.
"If Bre continues to be aggressive and continues to hold her own on the defensive end then I think we can be a good team and a hard team to beat," Hanks said. "We need her to play like she did at the end of last season."
Brennan averaged 4.0 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists and Kato averaged 3.2 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game last season.
"When Conerie sticks to her game and lets the flow of the offense come to her then she can be very good for us," Hanks said. "She can rebound and be a leader out there for us.
"And Karli has a good head on her shoulders. She is calm and understands what we want to do. That makes her valuable when she is on the court. She can play either guard position and she can shoot the ball."
Brennan and Kato are the team's captains this season.
Erika Mercado from Foothill High will handle the point guard duties.
Hanks had high praise for the freshman.
"She has a lot of poise," Hanks said. "She understands the game and has been well coached in the past. She knows when to make big plays and knows how to run a team. She doesn't get rattled."
Mercado is one of a number of freshmen that are expected to be big contributors.
"I like the freshmen that have come in," Hanks said. "We are much better at the guard position. We can handle the ball much better than we've been able to the last few years. I think there will be less turnovers. We are more talented at the guard positions."
"Jordan is a great threat on defense," Hanks said. "She is athletic and can take the ball to the basket. She is really a good all-around player and we are expecting big things from her.
"Tara is our best three-point shooter by far. If she gets her feet set, she is going to make it. She is also a good defender."
Among the first players off the bench for Irvine Valley will be sophomore guard Erika Pagkalinawan, sophomore center Vanessa Rea, freshman forwards Morgan Bryant and Samantha Perez and freshman guard Jennifer Lopez.
Pagkalinawan will be a team leader for the Lasers and help run the offense when she is in the game.
"She works very hard," Hanks said. "Without her, we wouldn't be as good as we are."
Rea, who played with IVC in 2012-13, but red-shirted last season, will be a back-up post player.
"We are expecting big things from her," Hanks said. "She is very active, especially on defense and rebounding."
Perez and Bryant will also add to the frontcourt.
"They can both play in the post, but have range to shoot a 14 or 15-footer," Hanks said. "Morgan is also really good to taking the ball to the basket. They understand their role and will be important players off the bench for us this year."
And Lopez is another strong guard that Hanks can rely on.
"She is someone else that we have that can shoot the ball," Hanks said. "But she is also someone that plays aggressive and gets rebounds. Jennifer works extremely hard. She is a big hustle player."
"They all have potential and could come along and help us," Hanks said. "Being primarily a young team, composure is going to be one of the biggest things for us early on and something we need to continue to develop.
"We are working hard on that and will continue to get better."