Victoria Princi impresses with her athletic capabilities
January 17, 2020
Karate and soccer: the unusual pairing of sports that have given one student at Westford Academy a myriad of unbelievable opportunities inside and outside the classroom. Karate: an individual sport that captivates the attention of the brain and the soul, creating spiritual uniformity through important self-defense skills. Soccer: a team sport that allows individuals to flourish through a selection of life skills: hard work, dedication, communication, and perseverance. Although these two sports may seem miles apart, they intertwine to form the world for sophomore Victoria Princi, who has gained a title for herself as one of the most athletically capable students at WA.
At WA, many students go above and beyond, shining through their extracurriculars. Especially during today’s stress crisis, extracurriculars are platforms for students to step away from their academic goals to engage in a lighter, more welcoming environment. These activities span from clubs and classes to sports and hobbies. Despite what a student is interested in, it is no false claim to say that participating in activities allows students to prosper mentally, physically, and emotionally.
However, even though extracurriculars are platforms to unwind, there can still be competitive factors, which come with any action in life. Whether it be making varsity instead of junior varsity, gaining recognition through awards, or becoming captain of a club, many students take activities up a notch by excelling way beyond the abilities of their peers.
One such student who has proved to be athletically gifted is Victoria Princi. Described by her parents as kind and hardworking, Princi is a force to be reckoned with due to her athletic abilities and shining personality. Her father Michael Princi views his daughter as one of the most hard-working people he knows.
“My favorite characteristics of Victoria are her tenacity and patience. Victoria has earned her nickname “Warrior” by never giving up, even when it looks like the game or match is over. This shone through when she was down by three points in the final second of a match, and Victoria scored a winning kick on her opponent. The set-up was patient and Victoria never gave up when it looked like she would lose the match. This tenacity and patience will help in any of her future endeavors,” Michael Princi said.
Princi avidly participates in karate and soccer, two sports that have been the world for her from a young age.
“I started doing karate when I was five, and I have been playing soccer since I was three. I have literally been doing both these sports for over a decade and I cannot picture a time when I was not participating in either since they have basically become my life,” Princi said.
Princi’s karate journey began when a family friend brought her to One-Stop Fun, where it was the bring-a-friend-to-class day. She instantly fell in love with the sport and enjoyed the day so much, she begged her parents to sign her up.
Soon, her parents got on board with Princi’s plan to participate in karate. They witnessed the drive and motivation their daughter had and ultimately decided it was a sport worth her time. After signing up for the sport, Princi recalls finding her groove almost instantaneously.
The style of karate that Princi participates in is Shotokan, the technical style of karate that demonstrates more power and strength than other styles. From a young age, competition fascinated Princi, even after being placed into the style as a result of her individual abilities. Princi started training intensely at the young age of eight. She was discovered by karate coach Eric Rossini, who saw the bright future ahead of Princi if she kept with the sport. Training with Rossini, Princi gained experience at Massdojo in Westborough, where she says she practically grew up.
“After taking a few classes, I was recognized for my abilities by Eric Rossini who thought I had a lot of potential, which was pretty cool. I have been competing forever, but when I really realized I could go far was when I made it to the elite level at age twelve. Since then, I have been training pretty vigorously with the help of the many amazing people at my dojo. Sometimes in the summer, during the most intense training schedules, I spend four to five hours each day a week training,” Princi said.
Rising through the various levels of karate at her dojo, Princi quickly started getting into competitions. She started competing in the year 2014. Princi recalls the day of her first competition at the Boston Open. She could feel the nerves running through her body the entire day. Her family came to cheer her on in the crowd. Walking onto the floor, Princi assessed her competition and felt the pressure from herself to do well. As soon as the time started, the butterflies in her stomach escaped and Princi took charge of the moment, embracing the mistakes and victories that came with the first competition in which she placed second among her competitors.
As years progressed, Princi’s drive continued to speed forward. She won numerous competitions for her weight and age group, she slowly, yet fiercely, climbed up the ladder for the most-skilled karate players in the country.
Princi’s big break came in 2016 when she was invited to the Pan-American championship to be part of the United States team. The Pan-American tournament is one of the largest and most prestigious international karate championships. To qualify, a karate athlete must place first or second in their category to make the US national team, giving them the opportunity to represent America in their category. Only a total of eighty to ninety karate students make the team. Over the moon, Princi and her family packed their bags to Ecuador, after a year full of vigorous training and early mornings. At the tournament, Princi fought her way to win the bronze medal for her age and weight group.
“I was so nervous. I had the entire USA team counting on me. I had never participated in a competition at this level, which was an opportunity I was so thrilled to have. So, for the days leading up to the competition, I was concentrating on my technique and form. However, when the time came to face my competitors, I completely forgot about the pressure and cleared my head, which helped me win a bronze medal. The feeling I got from doing well representing America is one I will never forget,” Princi said.
Princi’s Pan-American days were not over yet. She arrived back home, after taking a quick detour to the Galapagos Islands to spend time under the sun with her family, and began training almost immediately. She started off slow, still getting over the excitement of her bronze award. Then, she dove right into the sport, spending close to three hours almost every day at the dojo.
Not only was Princi’s schedule interrupted, but her parents’ as well. The whole family has made numerous sacrifices to get Princi to where she is today.
“Karate has been a very time-intensive sport at times. There are many times we have had to travel both domestically and internationally to attend tournaments and training events. Victoria has learned that hard work and getting the time in the dojo are critical to succeed; she has made the sacrifice and missed out on many social and school events to train. I think the time commitment has helped Victoria learn to manage her time. There are many memories of being in a hotel and waiting for her to complete her homework while we were traveling for these events,” Michael Princi said.
Her commitment paid off when she was invited back to the international tournament in Argentina for the 2017 year. She competed in the same category and came out victorious like last time, except now with a gold medal to her name. Her mother Kathleen Princi vividly remembers her daughter’s winning day in Argentina.
“There have been many great moments over the years but probably the most special moment was when her fellow teammates were cheering her on from the stands during the finals of the Pan-American Karate Championships in Argentina. The entire team was chanting “USA, USA” over and over. The support and team spirit carried her on to victory. After the match, she turned to her team and broke into tears of joy. It was pretty moving. It was just as much a team win as an individual one,” Kathleen Princi said.
However, in 2018, her Pan-American streak ended. Even with the same hours and commitment put into her preparation, Princi was not selected to represent the United States for the championship. This loss crushed her confidence, leaving her questioning whether she wanted to keep pursuing karate.
“I have never in my life thought that I would stop doing karate, except when I was denied an invitation to internationals. Even though I was sometimes disliked by parents who thought their kids deserved the same opportunities as me because they were as committed as me, I did not take their comments to heart. The personal loss of the nationals tournament made me feel like I was not good enough to continue with the sport,” Princi said.
However, Princi ultimately kept with karate for the remainder of 2018. She trained intensely and placed fifth at an international karate tournament in Cancun, Mexico, where people all over the world competed for titles.
Simultaneously to her karate training, Princi began to focus some of her time on another sport, one that she had been playing for almost as long as she had been participating in karate. Princi took part in JV soccer at Westford Academy. Soccer season was approaching and Princi understood the competition and time commitment needed to make varsity. For the summer going into her freshman year, Princi dedicated her time to training and building up her endurance, this time for soccer. At the end of the summer, Princi tried out for a position on varsity, but she ended up being placed on junior varsity.
Princi did not allow this to defeat her. For the 2018 soccer season, she persevered through all of the activities and games, never allowing the team she was on to overshadow her skills and technique. Loving every moment, Princi would never take back her decision to continue playing soccer for the junior varsity team at Westford Academy.
For the year of 2019, Princi stopped doing karate as intensely as she had done in the past, decreasing the number of hours she spent in the dojo.
As her freshman year became a thing of the past, Princi knew that in order to make varsity her sophomore year, she would have to double the amount of practice she put into soccer. The summer going into her sophomore year, Princi spent more time than she ever had playing soccer, decreasing the amount of time she spent doing karate. Running through drills, working on footwork, and working out, Princi grew immensely that summer as a soccer player, allowing her to make the varsity team.
“Since I was new to Westford Academy, attending Oak Meadow until I was done with eighth grade, participating in soccer my freshman year definitely helped me become more familiar with how the school works. I had a bunch of people trying to make me feel as comfortable and at home as possible. However, the varsity team was a totally different experience due to the different levels of playing and the number of hours I got to play,” Princi said.
Looking back, Princi regards her time on the soccer team as momentous, providing her with a second home and family. After only a few games, her playing time increased. Now, she was playing more than three-fourths of a game, an astonishing accomplishment for a sophomore student. Throughout the season, she learned many new techniques that have helped her become a better player on the field. Aside from physical improvement, the team helped Princi improve socially.
“Varsity was so amazing because I felt like my teammates and I grew so close, probably due to the fact we had older girls who could drive us around. Honestly, every moment with the team was great, and I loved the games because we were all so hyped up. However, one bonding experience that brought us all close was our trip to Seabrook, New Hampshire. We hung out constantly on that trip and really bonded,” Princi said.
Being new to Westford Public Schools as a freshman, Princi struggled to make new friends and bonds. She was used to her small, private school in Littleton where she knew everybody. Now, she was subject to a bustling environment, in which 1,700 students walked the noisy halls daily. One of her friends Jennifer Graffeo thinks of Princi as one of the bubbliest people at WA.
“Victoria is so sweet. She is a great listener and always makes sure her friends are happy. Whenever I see Victoria, she has the biggest smile on her face. She is truly one of the kindest people I know,” Graffeo said.
By helping her athletically and socially, her sophomore year of soccer earned a place in her heart that Princi will forever cherish.
Towards the end of 2019, Princi started her karate training back up again, as seriously as she did during the years prior to 2018. Focusing on the future, rather than the past, Princi now trains with the goal of improving and growing individually. Leaving her accomplishments as wins of the past, Princi wants to start fresh, reaching for what she can achieve, rather than what she has already achieved.
As Princi begins her ninth year of karate, she looks back at her journey and reflects on the multiple lessons she has learned through her many impactful experiences in the sport.
“Karate, and sports in general, have thought me a lot. I love the adrenaline and nerves that come with the hope to win a match or game. By far, the most important thing I have learned is that practice makes perfect. If you commit a lot of time to an activity and give it your all, your dedication will give you many benefits. Also, I would say you should never be too hard on yourself since that is one thing I have learned not to do over my years,” Princi said.
Athletics have provided Princi with a place to relax. Needing physical activity and space away from schoolwork, Princi regards sports as a way for her to escape the pressures of high school. Sports help Princi clear her mind, leaving her feeling awake and ready when its time to do her homework. Participating in sports since a young age, athletics have become second nature to Princi, a lifestyle she could never think of abandoning. Currently, Princi is participating in Nordic Ski, a lighter-hearted, lower-pressure activity that still satisfies her need to engage in a sport.
Other than sports, Princi is musically involved. She has played the violin since a young age, loving the personal serenity that comes with an instrumental connection. In her downtime, Princi plays the violin, piano, and ukelele, and constantly creates new songs and melodies for her enjoyment. Music teacher Ken Culver regards Princi as a light that brightens up his classroom.
“Victoria Princi is a good violin player. She is very tuned in musically. She has got good technical skills and she can be expressive in many different ways, which can be seen through the variety of pieces we have done and her capability to do them all: soft, loud, fast, slow, lyrical, melodic, aggressive. She has a really good musical sense and she is quick on her feet when she is learning pieces. She is definitely a bright, cheery, and enthusiastic student,” Culver said.
Culver is not the only teacher who thinks of Princi as a standout student. Many of her academic teachers understand Princi’s capabilities inside and outside of the classroom, admiring her tenacity and positive attitude, even on her lowest days. History teacher Kimberly Sears appreciates Princi’s constant participation in the classroom.
“Victoria is a really devoted and diligent student. This entire year, Victoria has always been kind and respectful to me and her fellow peers. She has always been a star student,” Sears said.
For her remaining years at Westford Academy, Princi strives to improve her grades, grow athletically and musically, and become a happier individual. Understanding that high school has its ups and downs, she is ready to approach every obstacle in her way as just another lesson to learn. Already changing the lives of many with her inspiring athletic journey, Princi is ready for what is in store for the next decade of her life.
“I hope to improve athletically and academically this year. Being 2020, it’s literally a year for a fresh start. However, looking beyond this year, one goal I have is to attend West Point and serve in the army. My dad served when he was younger, which has really inspired me to commit some years of my life to defend our country. Honestly, I don’t know what the future holds, but I want to thank everyone, especially my sister, for supporting me through everything I’ve been through. I know my family and friends will have my back through everything that life holds,” Princi said.