Cailin Harrington is the lone starter from the Bay State on the juggernaut Tufts women’s basketball team, ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division 3. The Westwood High grad has been a major contributor to the winning culture instilled by former coach Carla Berube, now in her first year at Princeton, and current coach Jill Pace.
A 5-foot-9-inch senior guard, Harrington is averaging 7.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game for the 25-0 Jumbos. She also swam and ran track at Westwood, where she was a two-time basketball captain and Tri-Valley League All-Star.
“Cailin was awesome to coach,” said Berube, who has directed Division 1 Princeton to a 21-1 start.
“She communicates really well, plays hard every second . . . She also comes up big in many of our biggest games. She has ice in her veins. Most importantly, she is a really great teammate and cares deeply about her team and the Tufts basketball program.”
Pace is in her first season after serving as an assistant under Berube from 2014-16.
“Cailin is part of a group of four seniors that have been exceptional leaders for us this season,” Pace said. “On a daily basis, she brings a consistent work ethic and does the little things that do not show up on the stats sheet. She is a hard-nosed defender who creates for her teammates on offense, and is one of our best rebounders. Cailin has played an integral role in our success this season both from a statistical and leadership standpoint.”
A political science major, Harrington spoke to the Globe prior to the Jumbos’ New England Small College Athletic Conference semifinal matchup against Williams Saturday.
Q. In your career, the program is 109-11 overall. How does the team maintain its intensity, game in, game out?
A. It’s honestly completely our team culture. We have this mentality of treating every game the same. I think that’s really reflected in our record and our success over the past few years. My [senior] class has been extremely successful, but that stems to the classes before us and everything that we learned from them and continue to teach to the grades below us.
Q. Tufts advanced to the national title game when you were a freshman [losing to Amherst]. What would it mean for your class to win it this year?
A. It would mean the world to us. It would just be the perfect culmination of everything that we’ve been working on and working toward.
We had such an amazing freshman year making it as far as we possibly could. We’d love to do that again this year. Like you said, we’re really just focusing on NESCAC at the moment. Last year, winning that title was an unreal experience and we’d love to experience it again.
Q. What has the transition been like from Carla Berube to Jill Pace as head coach?
A. There are a few changes, obviously, in the day-to-day in terms of practice length, maybe. We do a lot more yoga this year which has been really great for us. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I’m pretty sure everyone would feel the same way: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing for both coaches. Coach Berube was amazing. Coach Pace is just as amazing.
I feel like we kind have adjusted without skipping a beat. Everyone came into this year with a great mentality and that’s really been showing.
Q. Your bio says your dream job is to be president. Are you interested in being a politician?
A. I will be going to law school next year. I haven’t decided where I am going to go yet. I am super interested in politics in government. I more so want to be in policy, whether that’s legal or legislative, I’m not too sure yet. Law school is my next step.
Q. Can you describe your involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters?
When I was a freshman, a bunch of the upperclassmen . . . were involved in it and said it was a really great experience . . . Every week I go see my ‘little.’ [She] goes to an elementary school like five minutes from my house. I go see her every Friday. We just kind of play with them, talk to them. We spend some one-on-one time . . . help them through social or school struggles they’re going through. Sometimes teachers might indicate that it would be helpful for us to talk to them about something specific.
How do you think Tufts or other top teams in the NESCAC would fare in a Patriot League or America East-type conference?
I definitely think we could hold our own. I think a lot of players who end up going NESCAC initially look D1 and had D1-level skills. There’s no doubt we have the right mind-set. I know it takes a certain type of player in terms of toughness and perseverance, but I really feel like we have those attributes. I’m not going to say for sure that we would win, but I do think that it would be a competition. I don’t think that we’d get wiped out by any means.
Q. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
A. I would love to be a lawyer, I would not mind being a legislator. I would want to work in public policy. I applied to a bunch of schools and indicated that I was interested in civil rights, human rights. Not too sure what position that would be, but . . .
What’s the competition in the NESCAC like?
The NESCAC conference is unlike any other. It is so uncommon that three teams from the top 25 are in the same conference . . . It’s just kind of crazy how any year, any team can be great. You can’t overlook any team. Every single game we go into could be close. We had a close game at Hamilton this year, who we haven’t had close games with in the past. It’s just really anyone’s conference.
Q. You studied abroad in France last semester, what was that like?
A. Oh my gosh, that was an amazing experience. I went with four of the seniors on the team. I was living with Katie Butler and it was absolutely amazing. It was really eye-opening to live in a different part of the world and experience a new culture. Our host family was amazing. We’re still in touch with them. Last weekend was our senior day, and the underclassmen made an amazing video for us. There was a video messages from our host mom and our host brother.
Q. Best food from that trip?
A. Definitely the cheese. It was amazing. Our host mom would go to the market every week . . . Katie and I both had one specific type that we really liked. Every week. She would get it and say, ‘this is Cailin’s, this is Katherine’s’ and it was really cute.
Greg Levinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.