Utah volleyball team falls to Stanford in five sets in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah women's volleyball coach Beth Launiere, shown during a September match vs. BYU, almost reached the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight in her 30th season, but the Utes lost to No. 3 seed Stanford in five sets on the road Friday.

Utah's women's volleyball team led No. 3 seed Stanford briefly in the fifth set Friday night in an effort to reach the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight for the first time, but Cardinal star Kathryn Plummer asserted herself in the end.

Plummer, a two-time national Player of the Year, posted 29 kills as Stanford won 22-25, 25-14, 25-10, 12-25, 15-11 at Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, Calif.

Utah (24-10) was led by Dani Drews with 18 kills. Kenzie Koerber and Berkeley Oblad added 12 each and Zoe Weatherington had 10.

Defending champion Stanford (27-4) advances to Saturday's regional final vs. No. 11 seed Penn State, a five-set winner over Cincinnati.

Utah lost three times to Stanford this season, without being swept. Plummer missed the Cardinal's five-set win over Utah at home in October due to injury, then played well in a four-set win at the Huntsman Center on Nov. 22. She was at her best Friday, when the Cardinal needed her. Audriana Fitzmorris complemented Plummer with 10 kills.

Stanford overwhelmed Utah in the second and third sets, appearing to take command of the match. Utah coach Beth Launiere has praised her team all season for not being fazed, though, and the Utes demonstrated that trait again.

They rose up to dominate the fourth set, giving themselves a chance to advance. They led 6-5 in the fifth set before Stanford moved ahead to stay.

The Cardinal posted a .303 hitting percentage in the match to Utah’s .200 mark. Plummer hit .389.

The Utes played 13 five-set matches this season, winning six of them. They outlasted Illinois in five sets in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before sweeping BYU on the Cougars’ home court.