By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
Rebecca Daley's mother always joked that her daughter was destined to be an Eagle - an Ellison Eagle.
She was right, but it took a while.
Daley will finally wear green and white routinely this coming school year. She was recently named Ellison's head softball coach, replacing Carrie Erskine-Biels, who stepped down after six seasons.
"Enthusiam, organization and knowledge of the game," said Ellison athletic coordinator Buddy McBryde on what made Daley the right fit. "She seems very enthused and just can't wait to get after it."
Daley attended the Killeen Ninth-Grade Center before it became Harker Heights High School in 2000. Through the Killeen Independent School District's early rezoning plans for the four high schools, Daley nearly found herself headed to Ellison for her sophomore year.
"I was supposed to go to Ellison," said Daley, a two-time District 17-4A first-team selection. "But I opted to go to Harker Heights because it was closer and that's where everyone went. So my family joked that I was destined to be an Eagle after all."
Daley spent the last school year as a special-education aide at Brookhaven Elementary, and said she's gone back and forth deciding if she wanted to stay in elementary education or move up and teach high school.
It came down to getting back to softball.
"I really wanted to coach," said the 25-year-old Daley. "I played all through high school and played in college before my shoulder gave out. I just really wanted to be involved in that and be that type of influence in these girls' lives like the coaches I had in the past that influenced my life - at least while I was still young and agile."
Daley played both softball and volleyball for Cisco Junior College, before she transferred to Stephen F. Austin and later to Angelo State and eventually gave up softball.
Her role models and experiences are what Daley said she hopes can jump-start her coaching career.
After college, Daley came back to visit Lady Knights coach Tiffani Walker and she still talks with her former Hotshots travel-team coach (Darryl Brunson) whenever she gets a chance.
"It's someone who knows you, but is still very knowledgeable of the world," she said. "That's what I loved about it. They were just such great people. Even to this day, I can call them up and talk to them, and ask questions and they'll answer them for me.
"Those are memories that I have with those two teams and those coaches."
Ellison went 4-21 last year and finished at the bottom of District 12-5A with a 1-12 record. The Lady Eagles did have a trio of 12-5A second-team picks, including sophomores Alyssa Castro and Rayven Jones.
As a player at Heights, Daley helped lead the Lady Knights to consecutive playoff appearances (2002-03). She's played in many rivalry games against the other city schools, including a 14-7 Heights win over Ellison in 2003 where Daley went 3-for-5 with three RBIs to lead the Lady Knights back from a 7-3 deficit in the fifth inning.
"I just remember having that drive and always wanting to beat that local team," Daley said. "Harker Heights was not Ellison's cross-town rival, but it was still the fact that it was those local teams. You wanted to compete against them."