Lacrosse doesn’t always have to be so complicated. For Virginia senior attacker Payton Cormier and graduate student midfielder Thomas McConvey, it’s as simple as playing in the backyard. While watching the duo today, it’s evident that the years of experience — whether it be from hockey or the backyard lacrosse — have created an unbreakable bond between attacker and midfielder.
The two Cavaliers grew up together outside of Toronto, Ontario, spending their summers playing box lacrosse — an indoor form of the game that is commonplace in Canada — while juggling hockey and field lacrosse as well.
McConvey’s introduction to the game came from Cormier's father, Chris. With lacrosse’s popularity in greater Toronto, a four-year-old McConvey could not help but notice the game’s presence all around, leading his father to sign him up for the sport. It would just so happen that Chris Cormier showed him the ropes.
“[Chris] coached me and kind of coached my dad into it,” McConvey said. “And my dad started coaching us with Chris and they were with us for the first five, six years, which is something really special.”
With time and practice, Cormier and McConvey thrived as teammates on the field and in the arena, playing field in the spring and box in the summer.
“It was a lot of fun doing some things that we grew up doing on the field…which is something that we kind of take pride in,” McConvey said.
The Canadian connection also entails a different style of play stemming from tight spaces, enhanced hand-eye coordination and summers of box lacrosse. When watching the Cavaliers’ duo and other Canadian lacrosse players, a heightened sense of physicality and shooting precision is apparent. Box players do not hold the ball for as long as they do in the field game, and quick possessions allow for a fast-paced, high-scoring scene.
Nonetheless, the two benefited from their box experience on the field, growing into highly-touted recruits that would travel south to the States. McConvey chose Vermont over other suitors, choosing to follow his brother and other players from Mimico, Ontario. Cormier, however, followed in the footsteps of former Canadian Cavalier Garrett Billings and decided on Virginia.
Although they chose separate paths, the two excelled at their respective schools. McConvey ended his four-year career as the third-leading scorer in Catamount history, setting a single-season program record for goals with 60 in his senior campaign.
Cormier redshirted in 2019 — a year in which Virginia won a national championship — but immediately burst onto the scene once active. The bruising attacker from Oakville, Ontario has scored 144 goals in his last three campaigns, won two national championships and currently sits behind Doug Knight for the most career tallies by a Cavalier.
But when McConvey’s time ended at Vermont, Cormier knew a reunion was in store. The Canadian Catamount had one more year of eligibility left and wanted to spend it at a higher-level conference.
“I thought there was no better fit for him to come here. He definitely fits into the culture, to the program, and he can definitely help our team,” Cormier said.
For McConvey, it seemed like a no-brainer, especially with his friend making sure that he was always in the ear of Coach Lars Tiffany.
“I knew U.Va. was going to be a top school if they were interested in me,” McConvey said. “I kept my ears open just to see what else was out there…but I knew U.Va. was going to be tough to beat if anyone else wanted me. [Cormier] was a big influence in pushing me to get here, and I knew I wanted to play with him as well.”
Since McConvey put pen to paper June 2022 — signifying his commitment to the Cavaliers — the transfer has starred alongside his childhood friend. Things started with a bang in the season opener against Michigan, as Cormier caught the ball on the left side from McConvey and then promptly found him on a cut for Virginia’s first tally of the season. Playing field lacrosse together for the first time in five years, they didn’t skip a beat.
McConvey has found just as much success in the ACC as he did in the America East, extending his point streak to 67 games — the longest among active Division 1 players — and recently found himself the recipient of a second-team All-American designation. Even after missing two games due to injury, Cormier has posted 49 goals in only 13 games and made the Honorable Mention All-American list.
Virginia assistant coach Sean Kirwan could not be happier to witness this reunion, where McConvey and Cormier have been instrumental to the nation’s top-scoring attack.
“How lucky am I to have two childhood best friends just grow up together and build that chemistry and then show up on the doorstep here for one year, and then be able to carry that over to Virginia lacrosse,” Kirwan said. “They speak a different language out there, and just know where each other is going.”
The chemistry, creativity and flair displayed by this duo have trickled down to the rest of the team itself. The backyard feel to Cormier and McConvey’s game is not confined to the Canadians but has spread to other players.
“For other guys, they realize that [creativity] isn’t just limited to the backyard and that they can go out and do that,” Kirwan said. “And it's actually an effective way to play the game.”
Currently third and fourth on the team in points, respectively, Cormier and McConvey have displayed their chemistry in a way that not even their offensive coordinator can fully comprehend. The latter took a leap of faith in his graduate year, yet the Canadian connection has paid off and then some.
“[Choosing U.Va.] has been one of the best decisions of my life,” McConvey said. “It’s been everything I’ve asked for, and it’s a great group of guys and a great coaching staff.”