New Waxahachie girls basketball coach Ashlaa Zuniga has some huge shoes to fill, but Zuniga is excited about the challenge.
Zuniga, a Cedar Hill native and Texas A&M graduate, comes to WHS from Cypress Park High School in suburban Houston. She takes over a team that won 20 games during the 2018-2019 season but missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
Zuniga was hired in March following the retirement of longtime head coach Lesli Priebe at the end of last season. Priebe coached the Lady Indians to a state runner-up finish in 2000 and won the Class 4A state title in 2006, and won 523 games over her 28-year coaching career, including 24 years at WHS.
“Whenever you go into any kind of situation where you have a coach that has been there for as long as Coach Priebe had been here, and had some success, you definitely know you’re going in with a challenge,” Zuniga said. “People are expecting great things. But I feel like with the staff I have and the kids we have, we’ll be able to do some things this year.”
The new season begins Friday night at 7 p.m. against Saginaw Boswell at Indian Gymnasium.
“When I came in, it was nice because we kind of already had a schedule put in place, which was always great,” Zuniga said. “We were able to tweak it and add some people. One of those we added was Boswell, who we face on Friday. They had a great year last year, made some noise in the playoffs and are returning quite a few varsity players. So I’m excited because I feel like playing them is going to give us a good challenge of what we’re going to face in district.”
The Lady Indians have two returning starters, junior first-team all-District 7-6A shooting guard Mya Williams and senior second-team all-district forward Rayna Ross.
“Definitely we will go as they go,” Zuniga said. “But I am excited for the people we have around them. We have … the right people in the right spot that makes our team a very competitive team. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for, to have kids that have heart and want to compete.”
Returning varsity player Halle Becerra, a senior guard, saw significant minutes off the bench last year and will ease into a starting role. A pair of juniors, Brionna Parker and Taz Valencia, round out the starting five.
Zuniga said she will carry between eight and nine players on the varsity team, and all of them will get to play.
“They may be young (in terms of) varsity experience, but they aren’t young, which makes it really nice as a coach because they can understand some things and they’re learning on the fly,” she said.
After Friday night’s season opener, the Lady Indians will visit Irving MacArthur on Tuesday before participating in their first tournament of the year, the Mavs Fall Classic in Frisco. They’ll then host Saginaw on Nov. 21 before taking part in the Coppell Shootout the weekend before Thanksgiving.
An interesting highlight of the early part of the year is a home game against the Australian Traveling Team on Dec. 6.
District 7-6A play begins Dec. 17 at Mansfield Summit. Zuniga is relishing the opportunity to face her alma mater, Cedar Hill, twice this year.
“I think these games are really going to prepare us for what we’re going to face, because when you have teams like DeSoto and Cedar Hill and Summit and South Grand Prairie, you know you’re facing some of the best teams in the state,” Zuniga said. “Our job as coaches is you want to try to get your kids prepared for the games when it really matters, and I think we’ve done that by the schedule we’ve put in front of them.”