Lehman College did not need to look far when conducting its searches for men’s and women’s soccer coaches. New men’s coach Toma Gojcevic and women’s coach Amanda Popoli have history with the school, and each other.
Gojcevic, who coached the Lehman men from 1992 to 1994, was Popoli’s assistant coach in the inaugural season for the Lehman women in 2012. He became acting head coach for the women in 2013 when Popoli went to play professionally in Italy.
Gojcevic, who turns 53 in December, also coached Popoli when she was a youth player. Both are physical education teachers at Evander Childs High, which is less than a mile from the Lehman campus.
“We’ve been very, very close for a long time,” Gojcevic said of Popoli, who he said was on vacation in the Bahamas last week. “I started coaching her when she was 8 years old. She has a good head on her shoulders [and] knows the game really well.”
Popoli led the Lightning to an 8-8 record in 2012, 3-3 in the CUNY Athletic Conference. The team was 7-8 last season in her absence.
“Amanda has the ‘right stuff’ that our women’s program and student-athletes need right now,” Lehman athletics director Dr. Martin Zwiren said when he announced the hiring. “Amanda has the knowledge, experience and leadership skills necessary to bring Lehman to the competitive level our program deserves.”
Like Popoli, Gojcevic has spent time playing professionally abroad. The Yugoslavia native came to the U.S. with his family in 1973, but first, he migrated to Italy, where he began playing soccer.
He left Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1981 to pursue a pro career in Italy and Germany. After playing in lower-level leagues in both countries, he returned to the U.S. to play in the American Soccer League. But late in his career, Gojcevic knew he would become a coach.
“Once you don’t make it big, it’s time to go home,” he said.