Azerbaijan ended their Pool F programme on a high with a 3-0 victory over Puerto Rico on Sunday in a match that had no bearing on the top six qualifiers of the FIVB Volleyball World Championship for Women in Osaka.
The east Europeans triumphed 25-21, 25-18, 25-18 for their second victory of the group following their five-setter against the United States to finish seventh out of eight teams in the Osaka second round.
Puerto Rico, without a single victory in Osaka, finish bottom of the group. Entering the match, neither team had a chance of making it into the top six teams who qualify for positional play-offs.
Azerbaijan's whole tournament has been a story of what could have been. In keeping with this theme, they managed to lose a 5-2 lead to go into the first time-out down 8-7.
Veteran Yelena Shabovta and leading spiker Natalya Mammadova were producing the goods on the left but errors and the blocking ability of Puerto Rico's Jetzabel Del Valle and Karina Ocasio kept the match evenly balanced.
Azerbaijan eventually caught their opponents at 11-11 and then took the lead, with another experienced head Inessa Korkmaz spiking for a 14-12 advantage.
The two veterans, Shabovta and Korkmaz, were working effectively on the left and right respectively though their opponents, through some solid blocking, refused to allow Azerbaijan to move out of sight.
The Puerto Rican defence was the strong point of their game, not letting Shabovta, Korkmaz and Mammadova have it all their way as they went from 18-22 to 20-22.
Azerbaijan finally pulled away and won the set after Tatiana Encarnacion's spike from the left zoomed wide.
The dynamic Oksana Mammadyarova, hardly the tallest member of her team, contributed two lethal spikes and Azerbaijan beefed up their defence to take an early hold of the second set.
However, they let their guard down soon after the technical time-out, letting Puerto Rico fight back to 8-8 from 8-4 down. Azer regained their advantage and two successive spikes from Mammadova put them 16-12 at the second technical time out.
Puerto Rico were hardly in the game at this stage as Azerbaijan surged ahead to 20-13 before their opponents could reply.
A service error brought up set point for Azerbaijan and a missed spike from Del Valle gave Azerbaijan the second set.
It was mostly one-way traffic at the start of the third set, Korkmaz leading the way for Azerbaijan as they swept to an 8-4 lead. They extended their advantage to 13-5 before Puerto Rico called their second time out.
By this time, though, Azerbaijan were very much in command as they streaked to a 16-8 lead.
They squandered three set points before Shabovta, in her final appearance for the national side, fittingly slammed the winning spike the brought the curtain down on the Osaka second round matches.