Irvine Valley's women's basketball team begins its 2014-15 season on Saturday with a game on the road at West LA at 5 p.m.
IVC is coming off a 2013-14 season in which it had a record of 18-11 overall and 7-5 in the Orange Empire Conference. IVC once again made the Southern California Regional playoffs, but fell to Chaffey, 72-66, on the road.
"I really like this year's team," IVC 17th-year coach Julie Hanks said. "It is a smart team with a lot of depth, especially at the guard position."
Irvine Valley lost its top four scorers from last season, but returns a sound group of sophomores along with a talented freshmen class.
The top returning scorer is center Breanna Turner, who averaged 7.7 points and 6.6 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game. Turner ranked fifth on the team in scoring and second in rebounding last season.
Turner scored in double figures in six of 12 conference games last season and scored 17 points in wins over Cypress, Santa Ana and Fullerton. She had seven games with at least double-digit rebounds, including grabbing 17 boards in back-to-back wins over Fullerton and Riverside to end the regular season last year. She followed that up with 15 rebounds in IVC's playoff defeat at Chaffey.
Her 17-point, 17-rebound game in a 72-46 victory for Irvine Valley at Fullerton on Feb. 13 was one of Irvine Valley's most impressive efforts of the season.
"Breanna finished the season very strong and I think she is capable of more of those type of performances for us this year," Hanks said. "She is going to have some big games."
Brennan had a season-high 12 points in Irvine Valley's 75-68 victory at Santa Ana on Jan. 17 and Kato had 10 points in a win at Fullerton and 11 points in IVC's victory over Riverside late in the year.
IVC also gets back sophomore forward/center Vanessa Rea.
Rea red-shirted last season after being a back-up player in the post for IVC during the 2012-13 season.
Mercado, from Foothill High, is expected to start at the point guard spot.
"I don't know if I've met a more calm person," Hanks said. "She can really handle the ball and will be very stable in leading our team."
Casey comes to IVC from Capistrano Valley High. Her sister, Taylor, was a two-year starter and all-conference player for IVC from 2012-14. Taylor Casey has moved on to play at Biola University.
And Coleman arrives at Irvine Valley from San Juan Hills High.
"All three (Mercardo, Casey and Coleman) are really good," Hanks said. "Tara can really shoot it and Jordan just does so many things well. She can drive, score and is also a very good defender."
After facing West LA, Irvine Valley will take part in the Saddleback Tournament next week.