volleyball

Tucson’s north side is home to plenty of high-caliber female volleyball athletes set to take the hardwood in a few short weeks.

All great coaches will, from time to time, speak in clichés. They know what works and they want to share it with their players in a manner that is most succinct. It’s something they’ve been doing for years—or even decades—so, until someone invents a new language, they’re probably going to use the same words to get their points across. 

Now, imagine that the coach is your father and he’s basically been coaching you your entire life, either officially or through osmosis. What do you do when you hear him say something—something smart, something useful—that you’ve heard A THOUSAND TIMES? How do you keep your eyeballs from rolling all the way into the back of your head?

When that question was posed to Isabella Lang, senior setter for the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawk volleyball team and daughter of future Hall of Fame coach Bill Lang, her response was “Ummm…” 

Then, after a moment for reflection, she added, “My eyes don’t roll in my head…I listen…I mean, I’ve heard…he’s the coach…I don’t like this question.”

(That’s actually a summation of her answer. I was too busy laughing to get it down exactly.)

Isabella has indeed either been playing for her father and/or watching him coach for most of her life. One might think that it’s a tricky relationship, but she says no. “My dad and I are great. We’re able to separate things. I know when he’s talking to me as a coach and when he’s talking to me as my father.”

Isabella is following in the footsteps of her sister, Cocette, who was named Teammate of the Year on the 2018 Nighthawks squad. But there’s no added pressure. She knows that she has always been a part of a volleyball family.

In many ways, this has been a rough year for Bill Lang and his program. “I know that everybody is in the same boat, but COVID really threw us for a loop,” he said. “We usually have several seniors on our squad. This year, we only have four and Senior leadership is important. Isabella and Allison (Birtcil) are doing a good job, but it has been a struggle.”

The Nighthawks are almost always at or near the top of the standings, but after a rough start, they found themselves in third place. They will still almost certainly make it to the state tournament.

Volleyball has been such a big part of her life, what happens when her senior season is over? “Well, I’ll play Beach (Volleyball) in the spring, but after that…I really don’t see myself playing in college.”

She’s thinking about attending college in Hawai’i, but wherever she ends up, she wants to study architecture. 

“I know some people who are architects and they tell me what they do. It sounds really interesting. Plus, I’m pretty artistic and creative, so it sounds like something I would like to do.”

So, when her final game comes to an end, whom will she be hugging? Coach or Dad?

“Definitely both.”

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