Twenty-four years later, the Waxahachie Lady Indians officially have a new girls' basketball coach.

The Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved the hire of Ashlaa Zuniga on Monday night to fill the void left on the basketball court following the retirement of legendary head coach Lesli Priebe in February.

Priebe coached the Lady Indians to two state tournaments (2000, 06) and won the 4A state title in 2006. She won 523 games over her 28-year coaching career.

Zuniga comes to Waxahachie from Cypress Park High School in the Houston-area.

"You can tell the excitement around here and the excitement with me and my family, I am thrilled," Zuniga told the Daily Light on Monday evening while standing with her family. "I know that there were a lot of great applicants that applied for this job so just to be able to be named, I am very grateful and very blessed, and I just can't wait to hit the ground running."

Though Cy Park began varsity competition this school year, Zuniga was initially hired when the school opened in the fall of 2016. Cy Park was the 11th traditional high school to open in Cy-Fair ISD.

The Cy Park Lady Tigers finished their inaugural season with a 2-26 record. Both of their wins came during district play (2-14).

Zuniga initially joined CFISD ahead of the 2015-16 school year as an assistant girls' basketball coach at Cy-Fair High School, which she helped lead to a 2010 6A state championship against her high school alma mater, Cedar Hill.

The victory against Cedar Hill was "bittersweet," said Zuniga, and even more so because her sister, Ashtaan Horton, was a cheerleader on the Cedar Hill baseline.

"She was the first person to give me a hug after that game," she continued, shooting a smile toward Ashtaan. "It was bittersweet but a lot of fun at the same time."

She will eventually have to once again face the hometown Lady Longhorns — at least twice — during the District 7-6A schedule next season.

"I'll be real honest, a really big selling point for me was to be able to go back and play my hometown school and go there and possibly defeat them," Zuniga said. "It would be awesome to get a win there."

Zuniga was nominated as a TABC assistant coach of the year in 2014 and 2016.

According to the CFISD website, she also helped author a 2016 proposal to "encourage more participation in middle school after-school athletics."

That initiative eventually led to the Justin J. Watt Foundation granting $48,700 to the district’s Club Rewind ROCKS after-school athletic programs "to support flag football and volleyball programs at 10 CFISD middle schools qualifying for Title I funding."

Recalling the work that went into receiving the grant, Zuniga told the Daily Light that it all came down to "doing what is best for your community."

"For me, I know what basketball did for me, so I want to promote any sport that can give kids an avenue to do something," Zuniga added. "I felt blessed to be able to be in a position to be able to give back."

Waxahachie ISD athletic director Greg Reed said the district is "thrilled to have someone of coach Zuniga’s caliber on board to lead our girls’ basketball program. Her proven track record and transformational coaching style will enable us to continue the tradition of success in our girls’ basketball program.”

According to a Waxahachie ISD press release, Zuniga has previously coached two WNBA players, 10 Division I student-athletes, two McDonald's All-Americans, and one Gatorade National Female Player of the Year.

As a player, Zuniga (then Horton) starred on the court for Texas A&M University from 2005-08.

Zuniga was named to the 2008 Academic All-Big 12 team following her sophomore season, which also culminated in the Aggies making a run to the NCAA Elite Eight. She was a member of two Big 12 championship-winning teams, as well.

Zuniga graduated from Texas A&M in 2008 with a bachelor's of science in agricultural leadership and development and also holds a master's of science in sports management from California University of Pennsylvania.

She is a 2005 graduate of Cedar Hill High School.

“I’m very excited to become a part of the traditions that are rooted in Waxahachie ISD,” stated Zuniga in a WISD press release. “I know I have big shoes to fill, and I’m excited to be a part of a well-established program like the one here in Waxahachie.”

____

Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith

(469) 517-1470