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Monday’s cross-town high school boys volleyball battle between Trumbull and St. Joseph may have featured an outer confrontation between two FCIAC teams both looking to finish out their regular seasons in order to gain respectability.

Inwardly, however, there was another engagement going on. It matched up Trumbull’s middle hitter, junior Zack Yellen, against the Cadets’ top gun, fellow junior and strong inside player, Kevin Stapleton.

When the dust had settled and a small, but boisterous crowd aided by the arrival of the St. Joseph boys lacrosse team, was ready to go home, the Cadets had themselves a 3-1 victory.

After dropping the first game, 26-24, St. Joseph, which improved its overall record to 8-7, took three straight by 25-18, 26-24 and 28-26 scores.

Stapleton led the way with 34 kills, many all but untouchable. He added three service aces, the final one off of a jump-serve, which found its way through the Eagles’ defense to close out the match.

Yellen had 24 kills to go with four blocked shots and five digs.

The two play winter volleyball for Mazumba East in Bridgeport and know each others’ games very well.

The loss dropped Trumbull to 5-11, as the Eagles will finish out their season this week with matches against Danbury on Wednesday and Staples of Westport on Thursday.

“Our game plan was to do what we needed to keep the ball away from Kevin in that first game,” said Trumbull coach Tamara DeBerry. “I thought we did a good job of it. But, it’s hard to stop a kid with that much talent. Once we couldn’t block him anymore, it was over.”

The Cadets grabbed an early lead in the first set, leading 4-1, and forcing errors with a well-run offense.

Trumbull took the lead at 5-4 and opened it up to 15-10 before the Cadets rallied and tied it at 15-15 with a 5-0 run.

Six more ties followed before the Eagles broke a 23-23 deadlock, saw it tied again at 24-24 and eventually won the last two points.

After taking a 1-0 lead, the Eagles never managed to regain the edge after falling behind in game two. They got as close as four, at 22-18, on a Yellen kill. But the Cadets scored the game’s final three points to even the match.

Game three featured 16 ties. Stapleton was dominant, ending up with 13 kills along with his final one ending it at 26-24.

Trumbull took four leads in the deciding fourth game (at 1-0, 5-4, 10-9 and 14-13), and even wrenched the advantage back once again, at 25-24, on a service point from Yellen.

St. Joseph pulled even at 25-25, and Stapleton’s 34th and final kill made it 26-25.

Yellen got his last and 24th kill, drawing it even one more time at 26-26.

A perfectly hit ball by the Cadets’ junior outside hitter, Erik Lewicki (who had 10 kills with 15 assists and four blocks), gave his team a 27-26 edge and Stapleton ended up with a service ace.

Connor Gallagher had 35 assists for St. Joseph.

“I thought my timing was off in the beginning,” Stapleton said. “I wasn’t making good contact when I had a chance to see the ball.

“Once I was able to get a good set, then I could swing as hard as wanted to. In this game, timing and foot work are everything. Once I was able to get a good hand hit, I started to play well.”

Cadet coach Marty Dempsey, whose squad this year is loaded with underclassmen, considers Stapleton a “complete package” as a volleyball player.

“Even though this is always a team game, Kevin’s our leader out there. He’s the one who every other player looks to.

“It was nice to win a close match today. We’ve been on the losing end of quite a few this year.”

Along with Yellen, Lucas Ferreira had 18 assists, four kills and six digs for Trumbull. The teams’ libero, John Brandisi, had 15 digs.

Darien (13-4) scored a 15-11 victory in the decisive set, after taking the first two games by scores of 25-20 and 25-19.