Senior Spring: Pierce Widdecombe ’22 inspires as sole senior

Widdecombe leads his team in its return to competition and his final season as the only senior on the roster.

by Stephanie Sowa | 4/4/22 2:05am

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In his final year at Dartmouth, Pierce Widdecombe ’22 has taken on the dual responsibility of captaining the men’s tennis team along with being the team’s only senior.

As one of the few upperclassmen on the team, Widdecombe said that the team’s youth has shaped his role as captain. In particular, he said he has dedicated himself to helping his younger teammates adjust to college life to ensure they all have a strong bond regardless of class year.

“It is strange that I’ll be the only one on Senior Day,” Widdecombe said.

Widdecombe compiled impressive records over his two seasons playing for the Big Green. He went 4-1 in singles and 10-7 in doubles competition as a freshman. In his sophomore season, he went 10-5 in singles and 7-3 in doubles.

While Widdecombe said he has enjoyed his time on the team in Hanover, it has been defined by challenges such as the pandemic, which impacted Widdecombe’s sophomore and junior seasons when other conferences around the country continued to play. 

When athletic competition finally started back up in the Ivy League this past year, the tennis program faced another obstacle: The Boss Tennis Center was used as COVID-19 isolation housing in the fall of 2021. Because of its open layout and ability to house a large-scale isolation operation, the Center was not available for the team in the fall to prepare for the competitive season. 

“It was tough having that big break from tennis and coming back this year trying to get back into the rhythm of things,” Widdecombe said. “We didn’t have our tennis center in the fall, but we are pretty much back on track now.”

Men’s tennis head coach Xander Centenari ’13 emphasized Widdecombe’s maturity and grit during tumultuous times. 

“Pierce has had a tremendous contribution to this team and this program in what has been an incredibly difficult two years,” Centenari said. “He has grown into a true leader and captain, both leading by example and also as a great vocal leader, both on the tennis court and in the locker room.”

With Ivy League conference play now starting, the reality of being a senior has settled in for Widdecombe, who said that he looks forward to this last ride with his teammates. 

“I’m excited to compete with my teammates and have one last run of the Ivy season,” Widdecombe said. “Regardless of what happens, it’s really fun to compete in that environment.”

Widdecombe’s teammates acknowledged the importance of the role he plays on the team.

Alex Knox-Jones ’25, who also attended the same high school as Widdecombe in England, said that Widdecombe is a great role model for the Big Green, particularly his commitment to the program. 

“He’s a great voice between us and the coaches, and he’s really helped build team chemistry over this year,” Knox-Jones said.

Widdecombe said that he has enjoyed watching Knox-Jones acclimatize to collegiate tennis and that the two of them are a strong pair on the court. Knox-Jones recalled their doubles match victory against Yale University in the Sept. Dartmouth Invitational, prior to the official conference matches that have recently commenced. Knox-Jones said it was an exciting win after a tough loss against Columbia University.

“We bounce ideas off each other well and the energy is always really high when we play together,” Knox-Jones said.

After graduation this spring, Widdecombe will be flying south, using his extra year of eligibility at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

“I’ll be playing as a graduate transfer there [while] studying for a masters in accounting,” Widdecombe said. “I’ve still got more tennis after this, which is nice.”

While his tennis journey is not over, Centenari said that Widdecombe’s leadership on the team will be sorely missed. 

“The best seniors are the ones that are looking to leave a legacy for this current team and future teams,” Centenari said. “I’m excited to continue to watch [Widdecombe] do his thing and try to support him and the rest of the group as best as I can.”

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