Rob Siris helped build one of Mercer County’s top scholastic boys’ lacrosse programs while at Hopewell Valley Central High School.
Siris is now taking on a new challenge, as he will become the first head coach of the first-year men’s lacrosse program at Mercer County Community College (MCCC).
The school announced the addition of men’s lacrosse as a sport and Siris as the program’s head coach on Thursday.
“I am excited about the possibility of what this could become,” said Siris, who had been the longest tenured head coach in the Colonial Valley Conference (CVC) before he recently stepped down. “There is nothing else around here for guys who want to play in college. There are so many high school programs out there and very few local options at the college level.”
The men’s lacrosse program at MCCC will be just the fifth at the junior college level in New Jersey. Depending on roster numbers, the Vikings hope to play a limited schedule in the spring of 2018 and a full schedule the following season.
“I was part of a committee, probably seven years ago, to explore the option of adding men’s lacrosse at Mercer,” said Siris, who led Hopewell Valley to a pair of Mercer County Tournament titles during his stint as head coach. “I didn’t hear anything of it until just recently. They have a really strong athletic department. Their baseball team is nationally recognized, and soccer is another strong program. For them to add lacrosse is a great move for them.
“I will still be teaching (Social Studies at Hopewell Valley). I think an opportunity to build something and do it the right way is definitely something I am excited about.”
Siris took over as head coach of the Bulldogs when the program was in its growing stages. He helped mold Hopewell Valley into one of the top programs in the CVC and will now look to build the same kind of successful program at MCCC.
“It was a pretty young program,” Siris said of starting with Hopewell Valley, where he compiled 162 victories in 14 years as the head coach. “We had no freshman team back then. That was close to 15 years ago. My first two years, we practiced at Bear Tavern, and then we had eight years of going to the AFT fields, and then we had the creation of the turf field. We have a very successful program now.
“We’ve had two county championships and a bunch of conference championships. I think it is in a much better spot than when I started. I think this is such a great opportunity since lacrosse is a growing sport at the high school level in Mercer County. I think the creation of a junior college program is going to be helpful to a lot of young men in the area.”
Adding a program at MCCC certainly fills a void for players in Mercer County and the surrounding area. Currently, the County College of Morris, Union County College, Ocean County College and Brookdale Community College offer men’s lacrosse at the JUCO level. Siris hopes to tap into Mercer as well as as surrounding counties to fill his roster.
“There is nothing in Burlington, Middlesex or Bucks County, Pa.,” Siris said. “In a 20-square-mile radius of the college, there are 60 established high school programs. And there are a lot of kids that just don’t have the option of, A, getting a good education, and B, it is so affordable to go there and then transfer to a four-year college.
“If we can find a high school player who likes the option of rather than spending five or six times as much money and trying it out freshman or sophomore year, they can come to Mercer and get on the field and play. I’ve seen a lot of kids go to a four-year college, and it is a tough thing to get on the field right away. To be able to step onto a lacrosse field, play two years and then transfer to a four-year college is a great opportunity.”
Siris will jump right in and get the recruiting started this year. The Vikings should have a fall program in 2017 and be playing in the spring of 2018.
“If there are enough guys on campus come November and December, there is a possibility of having a full schedule this spring,” Siris said. “We’re using this year mostly as a recruiting year. We’ll find out who is on campus and who is possibly able to enroll for this fall or spring. If we have enough guys, we can move forward.
“The college is committing a great amount of resources. They have a great turf field with lights. They are renovating a lacrosse locker room. They are working on a grass field for the fall. There are still steps going for that. They have a strong vision for growth, and I am exited to help with that.”
Siris is excited not just for himself and MCCC, but also for the players in the area who now have another option when it comes to lacrosse after high school.
“I will be reaching out to all the Mercer County coaches and then the coaches beyond the county,” said Siris, who was an all-conference goaltender as a college player at Drew University. “I think there is a great opportunity to find those locally grown lacrosse players — guys that have not had an option like this in the past and now have an ability to stay close to home. And we’ll reach out to kids outside the area.”
For Mercer’s part, the addition of men’s lacrosse gives the Vikings a sport that fills a void in an area where lacrosse continues to grow.
“There has been huge growth in lacrosse at the high school level, but not as many programs available at the college level,” MCCC athletic director John Simone said. “We believe there is a strong interest in the region among lacrosse players, and we are happy that Mercer will be providing this new opportunity for area athletes.”