GUNTER, Texas (KTEN)- For the fourth-straight year, the Gunter volleyball team is heading to the state tournament.

"It just feels so surreal," senior setter Brelee Mauldin said. "This program has come so far the past couple years and it's just an honor to be a part of it."

A year ago, the Tigers won their first state championship in school history. But the quest for a repeat hasn't been an easy one… Gunter lost seven seniors from last year's squad and also underwent a coaching change as Toree Winchell came in from Frenship to replace Katelyn Gill

"We had a bit of a rocky start at the beginning of the season," Mauldin said. "It was really new. It was really different. Like it was a bunch of new girls. A new team, a new coach. It was just really new. But as the season went on, we really came together as a team."

After the first week of September, Gunter was just 15-10 but Winchell believes the early season struggles were worth it.

"We're very battle tested both mentally and physically," Winchell said. "We had some really tough preseason games early, but by design to get ready for hopefully this moment."

Now in November, it is paying off. The Tigers have swept their last three opponents and continue to leave everything they have out on the court.

"One of our drills is called 'dig or die' so that's what was our motto last game which I think helped us win against Ponder," senior defensive specialist Berkeley Caple said. "I think that dig or die mindset is really what keeps us going as a team"

And if Gunter can secure its second-straight title with two wins this weekend, starting with Columbus in the semifinals on Thursday, it's evident just how much another ring would mean.

"It would be a really big dream to see those girls achieve because a lot of people didn't think they could be here again," Winchell said. "So to see them own that moment and get to tackle the challenge, it truly is a bigger dream than even I knew about."

Thursday's game against Columbus will begin at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland at 11 a.m.