Without lacrosse, Garnet Valley girls cook up a different connection

It started with a bored text. Like so much else these days, it ended up on Instagram.

Early in the era of quarantine, Garnet Valley lacrosse players Lauren Bendo and Morgan McClintock found themselves with little to do and filling the time in their kitchens. They texted each other pictures of what they’d cooked, and an idea flashed. They weren’t the only Jaguars spending more time cooking and showing off their work on social media. What about starting a team food account?

“Since we can’t be together, we’re all really bored,” Bendo, a junior defender, said. “Our team spends so much time together, even outside of practice. We’re always going to get food and stuff. So because there’s a lot of places we can’t go to anymore, we’ve been trying to make stuff at home and it was just supposed to be a fun way for us to stay connected because we miss each other so much.”

A spring without high school sports isn’t easy anywhere, but it’s particularly tough for a program like Garnet Valley, the four-time PIAA champion for which deep runs into June are the norm.

Garnet Valley senior lacrosse co-captain Liv Brenner is missing her last sports season but is relishing in making cooking connections with her teammates. (Staff photo)

Lacrosse season starts early at GV, with offseason workouts and a tightly bonded community. So the cancelation of the spring sports season due to the coronavirus pandemic didn’t so much prevent the season from starting as it cut short something that the Jaguars had already prepared for.

With everyone confined to their homes, the Jaguars don’t just miss the time on the practice field but the presence of one another away from the game. And one of their languages of connection is food. Some of that comes from having a health teacher, Jenny Purvis, as a coach, integrating messages of health and nutrition to coaching. But from the snack cabinet they maintain for each other to trips before or after practice for acai bowls or smoothies, food is a part of the lacrosse bonding.

With lacrosse taken away, the team has still maintained the food connection.

“It’s just another way of sharing what we like,” McClintock said. “We all love lacrosse, but we also have other hobbies that we all love, including baking. I feel like it was just a great way to stay connected during this hard time and make delicious meals.”

Bendo started the account, @gvgirlslaxcooking. McClintock provided the clever logo, a chef emoji with a lacrosse stick added on the left side to counter the wooden spoon.

The account is full of the usual fare the girls would share – baked goods, acai bowls, the obligatory quarantine banana bread. But it covers a lot of culinary ground, from breakfasts to salads and entrees to deserts.

The juniors see the account serving several purposes. It’s a way to stay connected to the seniors, denied a final season on the field. Regardless of the competitive side of it – the Jaguars have lost in the PIAA semifinals each of the last four seasons since last winning a state crown in 2015 – the account is a way to commiserate with the seniors, especially captains Liv Brenner, Kathryn Toohey and Olivia Kingsborough.

“It’s really heartbreaking, especially because our three senior captains, it’s their last season,” Bendo said. “We’re all so close with them. It’s been really hard trying to stay positive during this because it’s such a loss for them not having their last season. I think having the cooking account and our regular Instagram, it keeps us connected and positive even though it’s really hard for everyone.”

“It’s definitely been a great way to stay connected,” Brenner said. “We still stay connected through our group chat and our Zoom calls, but it’s definitely a great way to still be with the team even though our season’s been canceled. And we’re still trying to stay positive through it all.”

The players aren’t short on ways to connect with each other. But fostering this extra layer of communication is a way for the juniors like Bendo and McClintock, who will step into leadership roles once lacrosse and normalcy return, to mitigate the loss of a season of on-field bonding.

“We’ve just got to keep our hopes up and remember that we’re Garnet Valley lacrosse and we will get through this together,” said McClintock, who like Bendo is a defender. “We have hope for next season, and we’re trying to stay connected the best we can.”

And, as just about anyone holed up at home for weeks can attest, it provides not just an outlet but a light at the end of the tunnel. The girls are already plotting what kind of potluck they can throw once social distancing is lifted.

“We were talking about this,” McClintock said. “And we’re like, it’s going to be so nice when the quarantine ends and all get together and have those laughs again and smiles again.”

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