Lehman Soccer Regroups After Playoffs Loss

By Emmet O’Boy

The Lehman Lightning. Picture courtesy of Lehman Athletics Page.

After three long months, Lehman’s men’s soccer season ended at the semifinals of the City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC) playoffs. 

After winning the playoffs two years in a row, “this loss was especially disappointing,” Lehman Lightning head coach Toma Gojcevic told The Meridian. On Gojcevic’s desk sit the two first-place trophies from 2016 and 2017 for the CUNYAC. Currently on his second term as head coach, Gojcevic looked up and sighed, “I thought we were gonna add a third one this year.” 

Lehman Lightning finished the 2018 season with a 6-10-2, a record that earned them a spot in the playoffs. They had high hopes for another victorious season after winning the CUNYAC finals for two consecutive seasons. But after the loss of some team members, Gojcevic was skeptical about whether the team was prepared. He was not pleased with the results of the 2018 season and was frustrated at losing more than half of the games. 

During the playoffs, Gojcevic’s fears came true when the Lightning suffered a 0-2 loss to Baruch College on Oct. 30. Defeat prevailed when Lehman received a handball, which resulted in a penalty kick that Baruch scored. Towards the end of the game, Lehman went on total offense and put most of their men forward to try to tie up the game. With about nine minutes left in the game, Baruch then got a long ball down the field and scored again.

Gojcevic already has his sights set on next year. During a rundown of the returning players, he talked about how the Lightning only has 14 players on the current roster for next season. “One of the hardest things for me as a coach was that I couldn’t get certain players to buy in.” 

“No CUNY has ever won a game in the NCAA Tournament out of any CUNY school. We want to be the first team to do that.” 

– Lehman Lightning head coach Toma Gojcevic

After losing Rafael Emiliano, Omar Moro, and Salh Alzubidi, Gojcevic is looking to “restructure the defensive line, and find new goal scorers.” He hopes to add new players who are willing to buy into the program he is building. Although it is a tall order, he and his coaching staff are already in the process of recruitment for next season. 

With new talent also comes an increased need for leadership on the field, so Gojcevic is looking at his returning seniors for help. Rising senior Chris Mulholland is someone whom Gojcevic believes could take on this role. Originally a midfielder, Mulholland switched to the goal position for the Lightning because the former player was injured.     

Gojcevic will not rest until he is back at the top of the CUNYAC. He wants to make an impact that exceeds CUNY schools and reaches national level. “No CUNY has ever won a game in the NCAA Tournament out of any CUNY school,” he said. “We want to be the first team to do that.”