It took an All-American to step up at crunch time and deliver an All-American performance for the second-ranked Stanford women's volleyball team to stave off two match points and rally to beat visiting No. 18 Utah 25-17, 20-25, 24-26, 25-18, 17-15 in a Pac-12 Conference match Sunday.
Audriana Fitzmorris, who has changed positions at least twice during her Stanford career for the benefit of her team, is a three-time All-American, the past two on second team and honorable mention as a freshman.
Fitzmorris recorded three of her team-high 18 kills in Stanford's final four points to rescue the Cardinal from losing its edge in the conference.
Utah went up 14-12 in the fifth set but a service error gave the Cardinal life and Fitzmorris answered the call, getting back-to-back kills and putting Stanford (13-3, 7-1) in position for a win. A service error tied the set at 15-all.
Meghan McClure then delivered one of her 14 kills to set up Fitzmorris' match-clinching kill on a back row set from Morgan Hentz.
The Cardinal needed to win the fourth set just to get a chance at a fifth set. Stanford responded in a big way, hitting .400 to Utah's .109 and rolling to a 25-18 win.
While a loss would not have sent Stanford reeling, it would have knocked it out of a share of first place, which the Cardinal currently cohabit with Cal (17-1, 7-1). Utah (13-6, 5-3) fell into a fourth-place tie with USC, Washington, UCLA and Arizona State.
Stanford travels to play at UCLA at 7 p.m. Friday and to USC for a 1 p.m. matinee Sunday.
The Cardinal has played without two-time national Player of the Year Kathryn Plummer the past six matches with an undisclosed injury, winning all six.
McClure recorded her first double-double of the season with 14 digs to go with 14 kills. The outside hitter incurred one hitting error on the afternoon, posting a .333 attack percentage.
Setter Jenna Gray also had a double-double, matching her season-high with 60 assists and 10 digs. She also finished with four kills, five blocks and an ace. Senior libero Morgan Hentz had a team-high 22 digs, two shy of 2,000 in her career. Only Gabi Ailes and Kyle Gilbert have more.
Gray spread the offense around as four players registered double-digit kills. Joining Fitzmorris and McClure were senior Madeline Gates and freshman Kendall Kipp. Gates had a season-best 13 kills on .344 hitting and five blocks, while Kipp added 14 kills.
Sophomore Holly Campbell had a match-high nine blocks and seven kills. Defensive specialists Kate Formico and Caitlin Keefe combined for 25 digs, while Formico put down two aces.