Payton Cormier, a highly touted recruit out of Canada, missed all of last season with an injury and had to watch the Virginia men’s lacrosse team’s national championship run from the sidelines.
The redshirt freshman attackman made up for lost time Saturday afternoon with a hat trick in his first collegiate game as the Cavaliers defeated No. 14 Loyola (Maryland) 12-9 at Klöckner Stadium.
“I just stepped on the field and happened to get the looks today,” Cormier said “Everyone on our offense is a weapon and has their own things and fortunately today I was the one getting the looks.”
Seven different players tallied goals for UVa (1-0) on Saturday, including two who tallied hat tricks. Junior Matt Moore had three goals and two assists, while Cormier added a hat trick to lead a balanced attack.
“Our offense, we’ve got to score more consistently and work on our zone offense,” Moore said. “I think we played overall, pretty well, but we have a lot to improve on.”
Virginia, which is ranked No. 1 in the USILA Coaches Poll and No. 2 in the Inside Lacrosse media poll, showed its firepower early on.
Following a brief banner raising ceremony prior to the game, Ian Laviano opened the scoring with a goal from the right side with 13:01 to give the Cavaliers a 1-0 lead. Michael Kraus assisted on the play to extend his point-producing streak to 50 games in a row, one behind Yale attackman Jackson Morrill.
Loyola (0-1) answered nearly two minutes later as Logan Devereaux scored on a shot from the left side to tie the game at 1-1 with 11:15 left.
The Cavaliers responded with three unanswered goals to end the first period with a 4-1 lead.
After a point-blank stop from Virginia keeper Alex Rode at the other end, the Wahoos capitalized with a goal on the other end. Kraus circled behind the net and found Cormier in front and the redshirt freshman ripped a shot past the keeper for a 2-1 lead with 7:59 in the first period.
Nine seconds later, Cormier found the back of the net again on the man-up opportunity to stretch the lead to 3-1.
“He’s very decisive,” Moore said of Cormier. “With his body, he doesn’t look like he can move that quick, but he can move. He’s really fast and really quick. I’ve never played with a Canadian, but it’s fun. He can toast his guy. He doesn’t have much of an off-hand, but he doesn’t need it. He scored two goals with zero angle today. I’m learning from him and he’s a great addition.”
Moore followed with a great individual effort with a defender on his back for a goal. The junior looked to his left and then twisted back to his right and drilled a shot into the net for a 4-1 lead. Moore said the Cavaliers used last year’s 17-9 loss to the Greyhounds in the season opener as motivation.
“We remembered that one,” Moore said. “We brought it up at our last practice, 17-9 and it left a sour taste in our mouths. They ended our season two years ago, so there’s always a little rivalry with them, so it was great getting out on them big. Our defense definitely played well, Rode was amazing.”
Adam Poitras converted a man-up opportunity to start the second quarter to trim the lead to 4-2 before the Cavaliers’ offense struck again.
Coach Lars Tiffany’s team reeled off five straight goals in the second quarter, including a pair from Moore, to build a commanding 9-2 lead. Peter Garno, Regan Quinn and freshman Michael Bienkowski scored during the rally to put the ’Hoos in control.
“Earlier in the game when they were in man [defense], our offense was clicking,” Cormier said. “We have great guys that can dodge and that can pass and look for all our teammates to be open. It was just so awesome to see our whole offense clicking right at the start.”
The Greyhounds stopped the bleeding late in the second quarter as Kevin Lindley, who scored 60 goals last season, found the back of the net with 11 seconds left in the half to trim lead to 9-3 at intermission.
In the second half, Laviano scored his second of the game and Cormier added a goal on a spin move with 7:41 left to build an 11-4 advantage.
Loyola didn’t go away quietly.
Aidan Olmstead buried a pair of goals and Devereaux added his second marker of the game to trim the advantage to 11-8 with 10:44 left. Dox Aitken stopped the Greyhounds’ run with a big shot from the top of the formation with 8:38 to build a 12-8 lead.
With a comfortable cushion, the Cavaliers used some patience on offense to maintain possession and run out the clock. Loyola capped the scoring with a goal in the final minute.
Rode finished with a career-high 19 saves, including several point-blank stops, to preserve the win for the Cavaliers.
“Alex Rode was such a wall in the cage,” Tiffany said. “Seeing an extension of what he did last May, we’ve seen that in practice and throughout the scrimmages and it was really wonderful to see that come to fruition in the first game of 2020.”
Offensively, the Cavaliers mustered just three goals in the second half, a figure they aim to improve on, especially against zone defenses.
“You could see that all those [first-half] goals were pretty much assisted, so we can take that and run with it,” Moore said. “We don’t need certain guys to make crazy moves to score. All assisted goals, that’s what our main goal is, they can’t stop it. They can stop individuals, but they can’t stop a team of six individuals going around the horn, passing the ball and looking for each other at all times it’s just good.”