After graduating eight seniors from last year's second-in-state team, the Class 1A Jays turned a 21-10 season this year into a fourth state run for the Le Mars school.
Their strength is not in any single player, but their combined force as a whole, according to Gehlen volleyball coach Mike Meyer.
Gehlen senior Langel contributed 260 kills this season, while juniors Baily Wiltgen and Alison Schnepf and sophomore Morgan Whitehead added at least 100 each.
"I think we are a pretty solid serving team, with several players capable of going on extended runs from the service box," Meyer added.
Gehlen junior Bailey Wiltgen led the Jays in aces this season with 84, the fifth highest in the state for Class A.
The season's serving efficiency for the Jays is .895, and four other team members contributing more than 30 aces each this season.
Meyer said the Jays also have decent size for a 1A school, making for effective net play, both offensively and defensively.
Gehlen junior Hannah Kessenich and Sophomore Morgan Whitehead lead the team in total blocks with 56 and 55 for the season, respectively.
Tripoli, the team the Jays will meet up first in Class 1A state play, is no stranger to Gehlen's girls.
Last year, the northeast Iowa school played Gehlen in the state final and claimed the state championship title.
Both teams will bring several new players to the court this year.
"Tripoli also graduated some key seniors, though not as many as us," Meyer said.
Gehlen players that competed in last year's state tournament will bring that experience to the floor this time around.
"Although coaches rightfully worry about players getting swept up in the moment, I think both teams are used to the environment there and it should be a good match," Meyer said.
The Jays have done their homework in preparing for Thursday's matchup with Tripoli.
"We schedule several opponents who are ranked, from a larger class or often both, with the idea that tough competition only serves to help us in the end," Meyer said.
Monday, the Jays scrimmaged with MOC/FV, the No. 4 team in Class 3A to gain more of that type of experience.
The Orange City-based school and Tripoli have similar scheduling philosophies as well as similarities statistic-wise, Meyer said.
Gehlen has a history of making a good showing at state tournaments in all sports, the coach said.
The Jay volleyball team is grateful for this opportunity to play again at state, he added.
"This team has come through some tough times and has grown as a result," Meyer said.
Their post-season run is the product of their desire to compete and their hard work, he said.
"In many ways, this was a 'rebuilding' year, yet we still qualified for state and are among the top teams in our class," Meyer said. "I think the kids are very excited about this opportunity. They feel that they accomplished something on their own merit, and hopefully that will continue."