CHARLOTTESVILLE – Childhood friends apart for the first times in their lives, Payton Cormier and Thomas McConvey made sure to stay in close contact when they left Canada to play collegiate lacrosse in the United States, Cormier at Virginia and McConvey in Vermont.
“We always stayed in touch,” Cormier said this week. “We watched each other’s games, commented on how they’re playing. Doing the stuff that good friends do. We never let any of our communication die.”
Now, that communication can take place at the kitchen counter.
McConvey transferred to play his final season as Cormier’s teammate at UVa. After setting a program record with 60 goals for Vermont last season, and with his brother completing his college career at the school, McConvey put his name in the NCAA transfer portal, hoping to use his extra year of eligibility from the pandemic to join a championship contender at a top academic institution.
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Joining up with his childhood buddy only made Virginia an even more logical landing spot.
“I loved my time at Vermont,” said McConvey, the eight overall pick in this week’s Premier Lacrosse League draft. “I just kind of wanted to upgrade the athletic side of it and the academic side of it. I left all doors open, but I knew UVa was going to be a top school where I wanted to go if they were interested in me.”
At Virginia, McConvey joined a midfield that included Griffin Schutz and Jeff Conner and added Stanford football transfer Ricky Miezan. But it didn’t take long for McConvey to make his mark. And, naturally, he did it by teaming up with Cormier.
McConvey scored the first goal of the year for the Cavaliers (11-3), off an assist from Cormier in the season-opening win over Michigan. It would be the first off 11 times the friends assisted on each other’s goals so far this season heading into Saturday’s first round NCAA tournament game against Atlantic 10-champion Richmond (11-4) at Klockner Stadium.
In all, Cormier, an attackman, is second on the Cavaliers with 43 goals, to go with 11 assists, while McConvey has 26 goals and 20 assists from the midfield.
The duo combined for six goals and four assists when Virginia blitzed Richmond 25-8 during the regular season. Each player scored three times in that blowout, with Cormier twice feeding McConvey for goals against the Spiders.
While they hadn’t played together in years, and the last times had been box lacrosse, an indoor version of the game, it was clear their Canadian connection remained strong.
“We still had that chemistry from all those years growing up together,” McConvey said. “And playing box, we kind of play a similar style, just that two-man game. We know what each other’s strengths are and what we like to do.”
The boys met when they were 3 years old, as teammates on a Toronto-based club team, Mimico. Their summers were spent together playing for Mimico, playing for Edge Lacrosse, another travel team, and for Team Ontario in the national championships.
Their families became close. Their fathers often coached them, with Cormier’s dad, himself a former lacrosse player, tutoring McConvey’s father on the intricacies of the sport.
The boys, also hockey teammates as youths, talked about going to the United States to play lacrosse together. But both committed early on to different schools.
Unlike America, where many lacrosse players played at prep schools or academies, for Canadians, college is often the first experience living away from home.
It was for Cormier and McConvey.
“In high school in Canada, our sports teams would go twice, maybe three times a week,” Cormier said. “You go to college in the States, you know you’re signing up for. Every single day you’re practicing, working out, living with your teammates. You feel like you’re always a part of the team.”
Still, they had each other as sounding boards as they transitioned to their new schools and new homes. And then, when the time came for McConvey to pick a program to spend his final season with, the choice was clear.
“I knew this would be a pretty good fit for him,” Cormier said. “The culture we have at UVa, he fits in nicely. And his talent on the field speaks for itself.”
Mike Barber (804) 649-6546
@RTD_MikeBarber on Twitter