2008-10-10 / Sports

Former Player Raaf Makes Returns To Flipper Sidelines

By Elio Velez

Michelle Raaf guides Stella Maris. Photo By Peter Borriello. Michelle Raaf guides Stella Maris. Photo By Peter Borriello. Iris De La Cruz was suited up and ready for the first day of soccer practice on the grass field of Stella Maris High School in late August., when she noticed former teammate Michelle Raaf, who had graduated two years ago.

But the 19-year old Pace University student, wasn't going to be practicing with them. Instead, Raaf would address the team and start practice as the new head coach of the Stella Maris varsity soccer team. Last Monday, Raaf was on the sidelines of Fort Tilden, watching the Flippers hold on to a 2-1 victory over St. Agnes.

Liz Cholakis scored two goals to add to her team leading total of 18 in the victory. After the initial shock wore off, the De La Cruz and rest of the team has gotten to know Raaf. They're happy the former star player has returned to guide them to 5-4-1 record in the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens division.

"I was expecting Coach Martin," De La Cruz said of former Stella Maris coach Eileen Martin. "Everyone on the team misses Ms. Martin. She's (Raaf) a good coach. I got to give that to her."

Raaf was a top forward two years ago as a senior and helped lead the Flippers to the semifinals of the diocesan tournament. Now she is a 19-year old coach who balances her time five days a week studying marketing at Pace in lower Manhattan, and commuting back to lead the Flippers on the field.

Prior to the start of the season, former coach Eileen Martin, who left to return to her studies in college, gave a call to Raaf and offered the job. She didn't turn the offer down.

"I never really left. I loved playing for Stella and I felt coaching for Stella was an honor," Raaf says. "Id loved to stay involved with the soccer team, and they are a bunch of good girls."

Raaf had adjsuted well to the job and the double takes from opposing coaches as she guides her team in the sidelines.

"I want to teach them and point out whet they're doing right or wrong and get them to stay in shape. These girls have come a long way," Raaf said.

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