West Windsor, N.J. - Even before the first whistle of the 2019 Mercer County Community College (MCCC) lacrosse season was blown, the Vikings had accomplished their goal: to create a team from scratch.
In 2017, the college appointed Robert Siris as the head coach of the then-nonexistent lacrosse program. He came to Mercer with years of experience: Siris played for Drew University at the turn of the century and currently sits seventh all-time in Drew’s lacrosse record books for minutes played. Then in 2003, he joined Hopewell Valley High School as the head lacrosse coach, a position he held until Spring 2018.
Siris’ performance at the high school level vaulted his coaching reputation. Hopewell’s 162 victories, five conference championships, and two Mercer County championships under his leadership earned him the role of Chairman of U.S. Lacrosse Central New Jersey.
Thus the 2018 calendar year, imbued with Siris’ passion for the sport, gave Mercer the opportunity to recruit players in advance of its maiden season. The Vikings fleshed out their roster with 20 players, including Vinnie Crea, who attended The Gunnery school in Washington, Connecticut and Jack Earley, a product of Box Elder High School in Utah. Mercer also participated in a practice season, scrimmaging against local colleges and Universities.
“My goal is to help each and every player advance his lacrosse skills and achieve his academic goals, especially students who seek to transfer to four-year colleges to continue playing lacrosse,” Siris said at the start of last season.
Fast forward to Spring 2019, and the Vikings made a splash in the state and national lacrosse scene. After securing a 10-6 record in National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) play, Mercer lacrosse earned the top seed in the Region 19 tournament. They dispatched Union County College 17-6 in the tournament semi-finals and fended off a second-half comeback by Ocean County College to win the finals 11-10.
Winning the regional tournament earned Mercer the chance to play for entrance to the NJCAA National Lacrosse Tournament, held in upstate New York. Though the Vikings fell 32-3 in their first taste of national competition, Siris affirmed that the team’s inaugural season was a resounding success.
“It takes a lot of time and work to build a new team,” Siris said, acknowledging the team’s journey from nothingness to national prevalence in just two years. “We made a lot of progress in year one and learned that commitment to a common goal can lead to success.”
Some of that progress was recognized through academic and athletic awards. Six players earned All-Academic Team Awards from NJCAA Region 19 and/or the Garden State Athletic Conference (GSAC): Thomas Hartnett, William Peoples, Cameron Potts, Dylan Ritchkoff, Avery Shaffer and Colin White. Five more earned All-Region 19 honors: Justin Brown, Jack Earley Evan Janiec, Brady Moore and Nate Raccagno. Moore was also designated the Region 19 Player of the Year as well as the region’s Offensive Player of the Year.
“To come out and earn so many awards in a program’s first season is tremendous” Siris said. “I’m proud our team has continued to uphold Mercer’s standards, on and off the field.”
Siris added, “Mercer Lacrosse has a strong foundation moving forward. We set the bar high for ourselves, and we’ll look to come back even stronger in year two.”
Siris was assisted by Murphy Butler and Nick Shriver.