When highly successful Ironwood Ridge girls' volleyball coach Bill Lang was contemplating a return to the boys' team he left in 2005, he weighed more than a few factors.

One of them – returning senior setter Sean Ham.

"Sean was one of most attractive parts about taking the new job," said Lang. "He's just such a competitor."

In a 3-0 loss to Catalina Foothills on Thursday, Ham led the 8-10 Nighthawks in nearly every statistical category, notching 18 assists, 15 digs, four blocks and one ace.

"Against Foothills we really started to see him compete and manage his team," said Lang.

Even more impressive – Ham missed out on the early part of the volleyball season as a member of the Nighthawk basketball team that lost in the state championship game April 7.

"Sean missed a lot because of basketball, but (assistant) coach (Melissa) Ohta has been working closely with him, and he’s really starting to emerge," said Lang.

That emergence is something that Lang believes is necessary for his team to be successful this season.

"I read a book by (a college coach) that said each team needs three things: a rock, a winner and a stud," said Lang. "I singled Sean out early as our winner. He needs to make everyone go."

"He’s emerging as the leader I thought he could be," said Lang.

The Nighthawks' prospects for the rest of the season, while not solely up to Ham, will most certainly benefit from another quality the senior possesses, according to Lang.

"He hates to lose,” said the coach. “Sean walks that edge that you want your leader to have: sometimes he’s a little crazy – and that’s what you want.”

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