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No more talk of ‘curse’ for Lightning soccer squad

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As far as curses go, it’s not exactly up there with the “Curse of the Bambino,” which brought nothing but heartbreak to the Red Sox and their fans after Boston sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees prior to the 1920 season. From there, it was 86 years of misery until the Sox eventually won the World Series in 2004, their first since 1918.

And it’s not even the “Curse of the Billy Goat.” That one began in Chicago when William Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, was removed from Game 4 of the 1945 World Series in Wrigley Field because he brought along his pet goat. Hell hath no fury like a tavern owner scorned. As he was ushered out of the game, Sianis put a curse on the Cubs saying they would never win another World Series.

And they didn’t. They lost that series, never even won the pennant again, and could be found nowhere near the World Series. That is until 2016, ending 108 years of futility.

No, the “CSI Curse” hasn’t come close to reaching those two historic hexes. In fact, the Lehman College women’s soccer team — the victim of the CSI Curse — has taken pains to exorcise any talk of the jinx from the program.

“I know the one thing we’ve changed is we really don’t talk about it anymore,” Lehman head coach Casey Melilli said. “It’s never even brought up. We don’t even tell the new girls the history behind each team we play in our conference. We just don’t want to put things in their heads.”

Sounds like a sound plan for Lehman as the College of Staten Island has felt like the Bambino and billy goat curses all rolled into one for the Lightning.

A little history lesson.

In the past five seasons, the Lightning have not only reached the semifinals of the City University of New York Athletic Conference postseason tournament, but also have made two appearances in the championship game, the most recent coming in 2017.

But in all five seasons, guess who has ended the Lightning’s season? That would be the College of Staten Island. No wonder Melilli has taken to quashing all CSI talk.

So what does Melilli talk about with her players? How about that her program, just eight years old, has quickly risen to be one of the elite teams in the league.

“That’s obviously part of my recruiting spiel that I give to them,” the coach said, “about how we are so competitive and that they are held to a certain standard because we are known to be successful.”

But this season could be one of the more challenging ones in Melilli’s tenure as she will field an almost completely new team.

“I had to do a lot of recruiting and whatnot,” Melilli said. “I really only have about seven or eight returners, so I really don’t know what to expect this year.”

The loss of program stalwart Daisy Gomez will sting, but Rebecca Gritz is back in goal for a third straight season. That is something of a comfort to Melilli.

“I always rely on Rebecca because she is the one who can see the field,” the coach said. “But right now, none of the new players stands out the way Daisy did. It’s going to be tough to replace her, but you know what? It’s someone else’s turn to step up.”

Melilli loaded up her non-conference schedule in hopes of getting her troops battle tested before conference play begins. But even Melilli thinks she may have overdone it a tad.

“We open at the Salisbury Tournament on Aug. 31,” said the coach, whose team will face Methodist University in the first round before taking on host Salisbury the following day. “Then we come home to play Rutgers-Newark, Mount Saint Vincent and even Manhattanville in our first few games. So we have (a) tough slate to start.”

The Lightning will open CUNYAC play Sept. 21 at York with their conference home opener coming four days later against City College.

With so many new faces this year, it will be like having a blank canvas with which to work.

“We’re going to have a lot of freshmen, and that could be a good thing because you can kind of shape everyone together rather than have people in their own set ways already,” Melilli said. “Then we can build our own values through hard work together. I just want to get these girls out here and see what they can do. I’m more excited than anything.”

And having so many new faces also means there will be fewer who know about the CSI Curse.

“Yeah,” Melilli said, with a laugh, “that’s a good thing, too.”

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