Sept. 30, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. - There's no telling what little Addison Harbaugh may do if inspired enough by her father's rendition of "Ay Ziggy Zoomba" as her father's football team.
Addison's father is Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh, and "Ay Ziggy Zoomba" is an inspirational fight song now reaching a third generation of Harbaughs.
Just as his father, Jack, sang it to him when he was little, Jim sings it to 1-year-old Addison, whether changing her diapers or serenading her goodnight.
Ay Ziggy Zoomba indeed.
Stanford players have felt the Zoomba love after each victory, singing the traditional cheer in celebration with such zest that the locker room walls can hardly hold back the volume.
Harbaugh has brought "Ay Ziggy Zoomba" to Stanford this year with help from Jack, who has led the Stanford players in the cheer the past two weeks. It is the traditional fight song at Bowling Green State University, where Jack went to school and passed on to his sons.
"I've heard it in my head for 40 years," Jim said.
Jim taught the song during training camp, albeit with some variations on lyrics.
"Roll along, you Stanford warriors," sang Harbaugh, with enthusiasm, to a group of reporters this week. "Roll along, and fight for L-S-J-U!"
Now, "Ay Ziggy Zoomba" has become a postgame victory staple.
"They get a charge out of it," he said.
No word yet from Addison, at least that we can understand.
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MEN'S SOCCER: Dramatic turnaround
The Stanford men's soccer bandwagon welcomes anyone willing to hop aboard. The team has made the biggest turnaround of any on-campus fall team following a 4-11-3 season that has been transformed into a 6-1 campaign thus far.
The Cardinal has not only eclipsed its victory total, but also has more shutouts (four) and matched the number of goals (14) that it had all of last season, and has vaulted to No. 20 in the NSCAA coaches' poll.
"I really thought last year would be the year we'd turn things around," Stanford coach Bret Simon said. "I really think the difference in talent between last year and this year is not all that great."
Last year's team lost confidence in its ability to score goals, Simon said, which put pressure on itself to hold every team to a shutout. Nine of the losses were decided by a single goal - eight on tiebreaking scores in the second half or overtime.
Injuries to key players such as Evan Morgan and T.J. Novak didn't help. Now, Morgan is in his sixth year, is back in action for the first time since 2007, while Novak has moved from midfield to central defense.
Another big change was moving Bobby Warshaw, a Top Drawer Soccer third-team All-American last season at midfield, into the central defense as well.
In fact, the back four of Ryan Thomas, Warshaw, Novak and freshman Hunter Gorskie, is almost completely new. Thomas had the most experience in the same spot, but played much of last season in the midfield. Yet, the defense, anchored by fourth-year starting goalkeeper John Moore, has grown even stronger.
With so many skillful ballhandlers in the back, Stanford can now launch the attack from any defensive position.
Offensively, the addition of versatile and tall (6-foot-2) freshman Adam Jahn as a striker has allowed Simon to use three players up front rather than two, with skillful and quick players such as Garrett Guenther, Dominique Yahyavi or Taylor Amman playing off him.
"I still feel like we're a work in progress," said Simon, whose team opens Pacific-10 Conference play at No. 7 California on Friday (4 p.m.) at Edwards Stadium. "The guys have made huge strides, but I think our margin of error is very small. Each game is going to be a huge challenge."
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WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Cook hopes to return to the court
Stanford women's volleyball player Karissa Cook expected to redshirt as a true freshman, but then got the opportunity she never anticipated - to start the season opener.
Cook appeared to fill a setter role that has been in flux since Bryn Kehoe graduated after the 2007 season. But Cook, from nearby Santa Cruz, has been unable to take advantage of that opportunity because of a back injury that has limited her to five matches and three starts.
"Overall, it's been pretty frustrating," Cook said. "You go from getting an opportunity to start to barely practicing. It was a chance close enough to touch."
Cook has undergone some unique treatments, including an epidural, to control the pain. Meanwhile, her physical routine is little more than lying down and walking around.
Stanford (7-4), which advanced to the past three NCAA finals, holds a No. 11 ranking after losing its Pac-10 opener in a five-set battle at No. 9 Cal on Friday. The Cardinal plays three different offenses - a 5-1, 6-2 and modified 6-2 - in an effort to find the most effective combinations.
"I think we can play with any of those systems," Cook said. "We're a different team than the last few years, and with all the changes we'll have to continue to adjust. It's been a challenge, but I feel like we're coming into our own. Now, we just need the wins to prove it."
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FOOTBALL: Kick to Owusu, or not
With three kickoff returns for touchdowns already this season, the question is: Will teams kick to Chris Owusu anymore?
"You don't know what everyone's going to do," Stanford special teams coach D.J. Durkin said. "You have to prepare for everything.
"If people are going to kick away from him and we've got to take the right steps to prepare for that when it happens. Teams could also say, `We're better in coverage than teams they've already faced.' You can look at it two ways, but be ready for both."
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FOOTBALL: God-given talent
Where did running back Toby Gerhart, who rushed for a collegiate high 200 yards last week, get his running instincts?
"Mom, Dad and God," Harbaugh said. "They just come out of the crib with it. They either have it or they don't."
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FOOTBALL: Gerhart thinking of USC's Johnson
The injury to USC senior tailback Stafon Johnson no doubt created a collective grimace throughout the athletic world, in which the bench press is one of the foundations to strength training in any sport.
Johnson was bench pressing a reported 275 pounds when the bar slipped out of his hands, sending the weight crashing against his throat. Johnson underwent seven hours of surgery to repair a crushed neck and larynx and his USC career is expected to be over.
"Everyone's thoughts and prayers are with him," said Gerhart, the Pac-10 rushing leader. "It's just a freak accident. Players are always in the weight room pushing a lot of weight. At this level, with the strength of players, it puts people at risk."
"Our strength coach, Shannon Turley, prepares us for everything, from form to grip to everything else, to prevent injuries like that, as I'm sure the USC coaches did.
"But I don't know if anything could be done to prevent something like that from happening. It was one in a million."
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WATER POLO: Ex-Stanford softball star hired
Former Stanford softball All-American Marcy Crouch has been named operations manager for USA Water Polo's national teams.
Crouch helped the Cardinal to its first two NCAA Tournament appearances, in 1998 and '99, before becoming head softball coach at Santa Clara, and later returned to Stanford as a Matteson Fellow in the external relations department.
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MEN'S BASKETBALL: Pollard biography
The late Jim Pollard, an All-American forward on Stanford's 1941-42 national championship basketball team and National Basketball Hall of Famer, is the subject of a new book entitled, "The Kangaroo Kid."
The book, written by Dolph Grundman, profiles a man who helped define the early NBA, joining George Mikan to create the league's first dynasty, the Minneapolis Lakers. The book is available in bookstores, or through amazon.com and Nodin Press in Minneapolis.
By David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics