By Tyler Byrum, Contributor
After two seasons with Jackie Simpson-Kirr at the helm of the George Mason Women’s Volleyball team, the program will be moving in a different direction with her decision to step down as head coach this past summer.
As a result, Aylen Ilkson, the former director of volleyball operations for North Carolina, will step up into the role. Ilkson becomes the seventh person to ever hold the head coaching position in program history. She is the third coach in the past four years for George Mason.
Prior to George Mason, Ilkson’s only head coaching experience was two years at the United States Coast Guard Academy. Leading the team to a 41-21 record in two seasons, she then became the assistant at Dartmouth before moving to North Carolina.
Looking to continue building up the program after steady progression the past two seasons, she will have a talented senior class. Starters Jordan Glass and Sydney Fanoga have seen action for three straight seasons, both becoming starters their sophomore year. The team will be built with experience as only three players are coming on as freshmen this season.
Starting the season with four straight tournaments, the team will be tested early. This will be followed up by jumping straight into Atlantic 10 action. In the annual pre-season coaches poll, George Mason was selected last after finishing one place higher in 2016.
Already the team has recorded the first win under the head coach by defeating Presbyterian College 3-1 in their final contest of the Benson Hospitality Invitational. Overall the team left the event with a 1-3 record. Senior setter Kelly Schaller was the only Patriot named to the All-Tournament team after averaging 9.54 assists per set.
Under Simpson-Kirr the program had a 17-39 record, with 2015 being their best year since 2009. Ilkson was brought in after a nation-wide search looking to continue to build the program.