Following a strong 2020-21 season by the Eastern Regional boys volleyball team, in which the Vikings went 19-4 overall while losing just one game within both their conference and their division, head coach Tom Armour has just as high expectations for his squad coming into the new season, despite graduating a large number of seniors over the summer.
To be fair, that’s just the kind of pressure that comes from playing for a team such as Eastern.
Following a hard-fought victory at Cherry Hill East in the third match of the season — which was the only team in the Olympic Conference to defeat Eastern during the regular season last year — Armour didn’t dare ponder exactly what the future holds for the Vikings, but still insisted he believes his team can get the job done as the team continues to get game action under their belts.
“My expectations coming into the season were that they’d be just as good, if not better, than last year,” Armour said. “As of right now we’re 2-1 and we only lost [four] games last year. Am I going to predict we won’t lose another one? I won’t do that, but in this area Cherry Hill East is a team that we think would be one of the most competitive, and we were able to beat them in three sets early on in the season here.”
The lack of varsity experience on the floor was noticeable coming into season, according to Armour. Despite once again containing a roster of mostly seniors and juniors, most saw extremely limited action last season.
“I only have two boys on the team this season that earned a varsity letter last year,” Armour said. “
Last season’s performance clinched the Vikings the Olympic Conference American Division crown, their first since Eastern won three consecutive Olympic Conference crowns in the mid-2010s.
One of the two returning varsity letters winners from last year’s squad is senior Pawandeep Singh, who figures to be a key component of Eastern’s conference title defense in 2022.
Singh has family ties to Eastern volleyball: his two cousins Jaspreet and Gurjinder and brother Yashdeep were on the teams that won the aforementioned titles not too long ago.
During the 2018-19 season, Jaspreet led the Vikings in both kills and blocks.
Now just three seasons later, Pawandeep is looking to do the same.
“I only started really playing volleyball my freshman year, before that I would just play around with my cousins and brother for fun,” Singh said. “This past summer, I hit South Jersey Volleyball Club to work on drills the entire offseason. Because of that, I feel like my game got a lot better.”
Growing up, he said he remembers watching his older cousins and brother play at speeds he couldn’t fathom. Now, after having gotten adjusted to the high school game and prepared for his senior season for the past several months, Singh said he’s focused on doing whatever he can do to help the team win and has a good idea about what it might take for him to do so.
“It really inspired me seeing the ball move that fast back then,” Singh said. “They were good inspirations for me, I try living up to how good they were and still are to be honest … I want 250 kills by the end of the season. It’s a record I set for myself before the season started and I think I can get there by the end of the playoffs.”