RICHMOND, Va. – One of the most decorated coaches in Spider athletics history, legendary University of Richmond women’s tennis head coach Mark Wesselink has announced his retirement from the program after a 33-year run leading the program to unprecedented heights.
“I want to thank so many people for their friendship and support over what it seems to me for a very brief 33 years. Thanking everyone is an overwhelming task. I have leaned on many players, coaches, friends and administrators. I have been fortunate to have celebrated awards, graduations, accomplishments, weddings, babies and other major life events. This has been a team effort all the way and endlessly gratifying,” Wesselink said. “Being a part of my players’ lives has been a privilege. I have learned as much as I’ve taught. I am very lucky to have worked with so many amazing people, with such a great attitude, in what was my dream job .Go Spiders!”
Wesselink has amassed 379 wins in his Spider career, guiding the program to nine conference championship titles and 11 NCAA Tournament appearances. The eight-time conference Coach of the Year recipient has posted more than 20 winning seasons and has led the program to eight conference runner-up finishes. Through his 33 years of him, the Spiders have finished first or second in the conference championship 17 times.
“For more than three decades, Mark Wesselink has been an exemplary leader for Spider women’s tennis,” Vice President and Director of Athletics John P Hardt said. “Mark has achieved incredible success in building Richmond into a nationally competitive program. He has demonstrated an unwavering commitment and dedication to the University, and his lasting legacy will be the positive impact he has had on our student-athletes, coaches, and staff. On behalf of Spider Athletics, it is my pleasure to congratulate Coach Wesselink on his well-deserved retirement and thank him for his outstanding service to the University and leadership of the women’s tennis program.”
He began his tenure at Richmond in 1989 as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association and led the Spiders to the ITA East Region Fall team title in 1995. In 1997, he coached Richmond to a runner-up finish in the CAA Tournament and was named CAA Coach of the Year – his first of eight coaching honors.
Wesselink guided Richmond’s No. 1 doubles tandem of Lesia Bilak and Bridget Merrick in 1997 to a national ranking of No. 9. As one of the top 32 pairs in the country, the duo qualified for the NCAA Doubles Championship. The Spiders would make back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament in 1997 and 1998.
Wesselink hit the 200 career wins milestone in Richmond’s CAA Tournament win against in-state rival James Madison on April 14, 2000. He would lead the Spiders to six tournament runner-up finishes in 11 seasons in the CAA.
After the Spiders joined the Atlantic 10 ahead of the 2001-02 season, Wesselink quickly made Richmond’s presence known in the league. He led the Spiders to the conference tournament championship in their first season as a member of the A-10. Wesselink was named A-10 Coach of the Year for his accomplishments in 2002.
Richmond dominated the A-10 for the next decade under the direction of Wesselink. The Spiders won nine Atlantic 10 Tournament Championships in 11 years including four-straight titles in two different spans, first from 2004-2007 and again from 2009-2012. Richmond appeared in the NCAA Tournament each of those nine years, and Wesselink was named A-10 Coach of the Year seven of those nine years.
Under his tutelage, multiple Spiders earned major annual awards including Erin Clark who was named back-to-back A-10 Student-Athlete of the Year accolades in 2009 and 2010. Spider standout Emily Dunbar was named Most Outstanding Rookie and Most Outstanding Performer in 2018, and she earned four-straight First Team All-Conference honors in her collegiate career.
Wesselink notched his 400th career win Feb. 16, 2019 with a 6-1 win over Towson, and he led the Spiders to a runner-up finish at the A-10 Tournament that season before guiding them to the A-10 title match again in 2021.
Prior to Richmond, Wesselink spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Harvard (1987-89), helping the Crimson to three-straight East Region Championships and NCAA Tournament appearances. He began his head coaching career at Drake University where he posted a 60-24 mark, bringing his win total in his career to 439 victories. A highly-respected coach in the tennis community, Wesselink served as chairman of the 83-team ITA Division I Eastern Regional Committee in 1993.
An announcement on the future leadership of Spider women’s tennis is expected next week.