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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Florida lacrosse seniors “ride the wave” with matching tattoos

The triple threat of attacker Brianna Harris, midfielder Shannon Kavanagh and defender Kaitlyn Dabkowski share matching finger tattoos

Shannon Kavanuagh (17), Brianna Harris (20) and Kaitlyn Dabkowski (33) walk together against Cincinnati on May 6.
Shannon Kavanuagh (17), Brianna Harris (20) and Kaitlyn Dabkowski (33) walk together against Cincinnati on May 6.

Moments before the opening draw against Maryland, Florida lacrosse players Brianna Harris, Shannon Kavanagh and Kaitlyn Dabkowski embraced one another. The three took a few graceful steps before they simultaneously hopped into the circle, ready to ride the wave.

Not long after, Harris, Kavanagh and Dabkowski made a permanent mark on each other — literally. The trio knew they wanted to get matching tattoos, and after the Gators defeated the second-ranked Terrapins in a thrilling 15-14 battle in College Park, Maryland, in Feb. 2020, it felt like the right time.

The three roommates each have a small finger tattoo of a wave meant to symbolize their catchphrase, “ride the wave.” The teammates endured a whirlwind of experiences together: from injuries to winning conference championships to a canceled season to bittersweet goodbyes.

“I have a physical reminder, something visible I can see, but I’m also always gonna have a connection under our skin,” Harris said. “Something that you can’t really see.” 

Kavanagh also shares tattoos with her family members and Harris plans to get one with her twin sister Kayla, a Navy lacrosse alumna. 

“Ride the wave” carries a legacy both on and off the field. Kavanagh said the girls brought it to lacrosse, but it started outside of Donald R. Dizney Stadium. 

Harris introduced the saying to her teammates. It reminds her of summer days on a boat in her hometown of Annapolis, Maryland.

“A few of my girlfriends kind of said ‘ride the wave,’” Harris said. “So it was kind of something from my hometown as well.”

Dabkowski said Harris truly embodies the phrase.

“Bri is just a super enthusiastic person overall,” Dabkowski said. “When she started saying that  a lot, the three of us kind of made it our thing.” 

“Ride the wave” keeps the teammates humble and puts actions in perspective, Dabkowski said. Getting tattoos was originally her idea. The Cockeysville, Maryland, native said though the saying is small, it is important to live by.

“Knowing that just whatever happens is meant to be and you can’t really control a lot in life, so might as well just go with the flow,” Dabkowski said.

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The then-No. 6 Gators’ 2020 campaign was abruptly cut short in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We went into last year just saying, you know, ‘we’re gonna go with the flow of things, we’re not gonna let things bother us,’” Kavanagh said.

After Harris underwent surgery for her second torn ACL and sat out Florida’s entire 2018 season, the attacker seemed destined to return to the field for a fifth year of eligibility. That’s when the redshirt senior formed her unique relationship with coach Amanda O’Leary. The two had their ups and downs, Harris said, but when she got hurt, their bond grew stronger. 

“We would have individual meetings, we would really talk about my life and talk about her life,” she said.

Harris said she opened up to O’Leary in the last year, and their relationship became especially meaningful to her, so of course O’Leary had to ride the wave with her, too. When UF beat UM, Harris eagerly purchased a T-shirt for O’Leary that featured a surfer and the phrase “ride the wave.” She paired the tee with a handwritten note.

“This is something that we’ve been saying here, we say in my hometown and I think it’d be important for you to have a ‘ride the wave’ T-shirt,” Harris said the note generally read. 

O’Leary sported her new gear the very next day. 

Harris, Kavanagh and Dabkowski’s collegiate careers came to a close with a national quarterfinal loss to the Syracuse Orange on May 22. The trio missed their shot at a national championship, but their trust in the future never wavered. 

“Ride the wave, it’s going to take us somewhere better,” Harris said. 

Contact Karina Wilson at and follow her on Twitter @kk_rinaa

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Karina Wilson

Karina Wilson is a second-year student at the University of Florida within the College of Journalism and Communications with a specialization in sports and media. She aims to produce engaging, accurate and current content for all types of sports fans. Currently, Karina is The Alligator's lacrosse beat writer.

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