Talented trio of former Stanley Blue Jay athletes enjoying collegiate athletics

-Article by  Ian Grande

Stanley – A trio of former standout Stanley Blue Jay athletes are making their mark on the college volleyball scene. Chai Pappa (’14), Brianna Holland (’15), and Savanah Meyer (‘16) were all multi-sport athletes for the Blue Jays, with all three of them excelling on both the basketball court and the volleyball court. Together the trio amassed an incredible 34 combined varsity letters at Stanley High School

The trio is now focused on the volleyball court and the college classroom as they further their educations and juggle the ups and downs of transitioning from high school to college and life as a collegiate student-athlete.

Chai Pappa (Photo Courtesy of University of North Dakota)

Transition from high school athletics to collegiate athletics 

The transition from the high school athletics to collegiate athletics can be challenging on and off of the court, University of North Dakota junior Chai Pappa has had to make the adjustment to a new school twice in the last 3 years. Last season she wrapped up a stellar career at Bismarck State College (BSC), Pappa earned two Mon-Dak All-Conference selections, she was also a NJCAA All-American Honorable Mention. Her excellent career at Bismarck State and the prodigous talent that was once a common sight for Blue Jay fans earned her a spot on the University of North Dakota (Division 1). Pappa has some words of wisdom for those looking to make the transition to college, “There are always those forces outside of sports that can make transitioning difficult too, and from high school to BSC that was definitely leaving my family. Not being able to see them every day and having someone to do simple things for you and help keep track of your life (mom) really does hit you hard when you go to college. Along with the freedom to do whatever you want, which can get you into trouble. (My advice: DO NOT skip class, you do it once, and it’s a hard habit to break!) I adjusted pretty quickly to Bismarck in that aspect though and then thrived! Bismarck is to this day my favorite place. Transitioning from high school to college or from one college to another is tough, especially right away, but don’t feel like you can’t call home or visit or anything. It does get better, and the more you are willing to do (go to events, socialize, get out of your comfort zone, just be YOU) the easier it’ll get!”

Pappa quickly realized that transitioning from Bismarck State to the University of North Dakota meant more than just a longer distance home. The riggers of being a Division 1 athlete are something that very few people fully realize, “The transition from Bismarck to the University of North Dakota was more difficult for me. I thought it would be easier having already went through it once, but it wasn’t.  The distance is the hardest part for me with being in Grand Forks. It’s twice the distance home, so my family has to be more selective of when they can come and see me, and with being a D1 college athlete, we are busy ALL fall, so I haven’t and won’t get to go home until Thanksgiving. That was the hardest part for me, along with leaving all of the friends I made at BSC, it is kind of like having to start over here. Honestly, what has saved me and still does is how good my family is about facetiming, texting and calling me all the time. If they didn’t, I can’t imagine how I would be doing! My family is so supportive and I’m so thankful for that,” said Pappa.

Making the leap from Stanley High School to Williston State has been both challenging and rewarding for Savanah Meyer as well, “The transition has most definitely been challenging and is still something I’m getting used to. College volleyball is a lot more fast paced than high school and that is still something I am getting used to. College volleyball also takes up way more of my time than high school did so it has made me become more organized and more responsible with homework and activities outside of volleyball, it has been a blast through it all though,” said the Williston State freshman.

This sentiment was echoed by Meyer’s Williston State teammate Brianna Holland, “The transition from Stanley to Williston State College volleyball was big. I went from playing setter to playing defensive specialist to playing outside hitter and I had to get used to that. It also is hard work transitioning from high school sports to college sports for the fact that I am now playing one sport and I am playing it pretty much all year round. It’s hard work but it is so worth it,” said Holland.

The transition to college volleyball meant a change of position for Pappa as well,

“Transferring from high school to BSC was a pretty large adjustment, I changed positions to something I had never played before, and just learning a new style of play with completely different teammates. I would say I felt like I was trying to find my rhythm throughout my entire freshman season at BSC, but my sophomore year it just clicked and I was extremely confident and comfortable with my role and my ability to do what I needed to do. The same goes for here at UND, I changed positions again, I am now a DS and not playing front row at all, which is new for me. I have never been this good of a defensive player and that is highly rewarding,” said University of North Dakota junior Chai Pappa.

Stanley Blue Jay Volleyball coach Jessica Niemitalo had the pleasure of working with this trio and isn’t surprised by their post high school success, “Coaching these 3 athletes (Chai, Savanah, Brianna) was a pleasure. All three play with a passion for the game and they are always looking to be better than the last time they stepped on the court. They had a way of leading by example and holding teammates to a higher standard without seeming to arrogant. It was great to be a part of that growth as an athlete and a leader. It is so fun to see kids play on to the next level, to challenge themselves further especially kids with a passion for the game.”

Team success helps to ease the transition 

The University of North Dakota is off to a great start this season, the Fighting Hawks are tied for first place in the Big Sky Conference with an impressive 7-1 conference record, they are 15-8 overall. “The season is going great right now. We are really excelling which is greatly attributed to the weights training we do, and how intensely we practice. We are one of, if not the only team that lifts throughout the season, which definitely pays off in those long matches. It helps us to outlast our competition mentally and physically. We hope to continue the awesome winning streak we are on right now,” said Pappa.


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Williston State is also playing some nice volleyball this season, they currently have a 16-15 record overall. The Tetons finished in second place with a 5-2 conference record. They have one match left against Lake Region State College before the sub-regional tournament. “Our season is going really good. We all click and play together very well in all different kinds of circumstances, which is great, many teams can’t do that. We have had some up and downs but that’s typical, we always get things figured out and come back better,” said Meyer.

The University of North Dakota will travel to Idaho State this Friday, while Williston State will host Lake Region State College in the final game of the regular season.

This talented trio appears to be on the right track, both on and off the court.

– Article by Ian Grande


Chai Pappa – University of North Dakota (Jr.)

Chia Pappa (Photo Courtesy of University of North Dakota)

Chai spent two seasons playing for Bismarck State College, she earned two Mon-Dak All-Conference selections, she was also a NJCAA All-American Honorable Mention.
Chai had a stellar career as a multisport athlete for the Stanley Blue Jays, she accumulated an astounishing 13 varsity letters in high school. Highlighted by 3 All-State selections in Volleyball and Region 8 senior-athlete of the year award in basketball, she was also named the North Dakota Powerade Senior Athlete of the Year in Volleyball.

Savanah Meyer – Williston State Tetons (Fr.)


Savanah is in her first season of volleyball at Williston State.

Savanah excelled in both basketball and volleyball for the Stanley Blue Jays. She was an 8 time letter winner for the Blue Jays, making frequent appearences on all-district teams throughout her career.

Brianna Holland – Williston State Tetons (So.)


Brianna is entering her second and final season of volleyball at Williston State College.

Brianna had an impressive career for the Stanley Blue Jays as well, picking up 13 varsity letters. Volleyball (5), Basketball (4), Softball (3), Track (1). She was also named to 3 All-District volleyball teams and was named the Region 8 Senior Athlete of the Year in volleyball. She was also named Stanley Senior Female Athlete of the Year.

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