It’s hard to say whether the Ma’ayanot soccer team or its coach is a more interesting story. This much is certain, though: Without Michael Sce, there would be no yeshiva girls’ indoor soccer league. And without Ma’ayanot’s squad, there wouldn’t be one of the more remarkable turnaround stories in yeshiva league history.
The Teaneck girls’ high school beat The Frisch School last week 8-3 in the league’s championship game, snapping the Frisch Cougars’ run of six straight championships. Frisch had actually won every title in the league’s history and had lost only one regular season game during that stretch. But the challenge was more than welcomed by Ma’ayanot — which co-founded the league along with Frisch and which, for the first two years of league play, didn’t win a single game.
Call them the anti-Frisch, but Sce says a changing of the guard was in order.
"We feel that we’re getting better every year," said Sce, whose team was 6-‘ during the regular season, "and we’ve beaten all 11 teams in this league except for Frisch. Maybe it’s time for Frisch to step down."
Sce is no stranger to competitive sports. A Jewish convert now living in Teaneck, Sce grew up immersed in athletics. He played football at Long Island’s St. Francis Prep — Vince Lombardi’s alma mater — and played football and rugby in college. Six years ago, when his daughter Estee wanted to start a soccer team, she knew exactly where to go.
"Estee told me, ‘We need a coach, and it’s going to be you,’" said Sce.
So Sce, along with organizers at Frisch, put the girls’ yeshiva soccer league together. And despite the machismo associated with being an ex-high school football star, Sce has deep convictions about women’s athletics.
"I believe girls learn a lot about themselves through sports," he said. "The statistics prove [that girls who play sports] have lower [teen] pregnancy rates, lower risks of cancer, and an increased likelihood of finishing college."
The biggest challenge, though, was teaching his players to act a little more like the boys.
"They say men should get in touch with their feminine side, but girls in indoor soccer need to get in touch with their masculine side," laughed Sce. "Most of my players are mild-mannered girls. In the beginning, other schools were much more physical than we were, and we had girls that would come away bruised and in tears."