"Are you the volleyball coach?" asked the tall, blond girl, peeking through the classroom doorway of Severna Park coach Tim Dunbar the day before the first day of school.
"Yes," said Dunbar.
"Well," the girl began, "I'm April Kaiser, and I'd like to play."
"Well, I've already made final cuts, and you need a physical and.
Before he could finish his sentence, Kaiser, a 5-foot-9 senior, reached into her pocket and pulled out a completed physical.
"But Ialso need a parent permission slip," Dunbar retorted.
In walked Kaiser's mother, Janette.
And after a brief discussion about Kaiser's background, Dunbar told her to be at practice that day "to show him what she's got."
Kaiser, 17, was there, prompt and ready to go. And her moves were like clockwork.
"The first 10 minutes of practice, I said, 'I think I'll keep her,' " Dunbar said.
"After 15 minutes, I said, 'OK, she's starting.' But five minutes after that, I said, 'OK, this girl's not only a quality volleyball player, but she's going to be the best in the county.' "
Like a sniper, Kaiser can target a weak player and shoot her down with a hard serve, or use the duplicity of a soft floater serve.
And her kills? Simply murderous.
"She was smooth, confident, and she just flowed," Dunbarsaid. "She was technically accurate, and boy, does she hustle."
But with five returning starters, where would he put her?
Said veteran 5-10 hitter Kate Marks, "Cassandra Melton (a starting 5-7 hitter)and I started worrying about our positions."
And with good reason.
Dunbar moved Marks, a junior co-captain, to the off-hand, right-side hitter position, yielding the power-oriented left side to Kaiser.
"I had been working all summer on my hitting (playing club ball in the Washington Capitol League,)" Marks said.
"But then I watched Coach Dunbar's face when he first saw April practice, and I knew hewas happy to see her. Then I knew (the move) was the best thing for the team."
Ten games into the season, the Falcons are unbeaten (6-0 against 4A teams) behind Kaiser, who has a team-high 95 kills and is serving at 92 percent, with 14 aces.
As her big games against Laurel (21 kills) and Eleanor Roosevelt (20 kills) indicate, Kaiser "rises to the occasion," Dunbar said.
A late bloomer, Kaiser didn't begin playing volleyball until her seventh-grade year at Arizona's Payson Junior High.
Two years later, her mother's job with the National Forest Service prompted a move to Columbia, Mo., where, as a freshman at Jefferson Junior High, April became a three-sport athlete. Sheplayed volleyball, became a center in basketball and in track did the long jump and ran the mile relay.
Just before her sophomore year, her club volleyball team, Versailles, went undefeated and won the Mid-America regional title.
Kaiser, then a middle hitter, was one of 10 girls chosen in her tri-state region -- Kansas, Iowa and Missouri -- to play in the national tournament.
Her team finished fifth nationally, so after a year of three sports at David Hickman High, Kaiser decided to concentrate solely on volleyball.
As a member of a tri-county squad, Kaiser first started playing the outside hitter position.
"We went to a tournament just about every weekend and won almost every one of them," said Kaiser, whose tri-county club ultimately finished 13th nationally.
"It was OK, moving to outside hitter,because I had more chances to hit the ball down, but I did miss the middle."
The Kaisers came east when Janette's job as a natural resources specialist required her to live near Washington.
"I knew wewere coming in this direction two months before we moved (to SevernaPark)," said Janette, who considered both Prince George's and Montgomery counties. "We were looking for the suburban quality of life, good academics and a diverse population. April likes people and fits in easily."
Broadneck coach Glenn Brainer said, "She threw the balance of the whole league their way. Without her, I don't think that they'd be quite as good as they are." The Bruins ousted the Falcons in last year's Class 4A Region IV semifinal.
The Bruins, who lost the championship match to eventual state champ Glen Burnie, kept the Falcons that year from winning their fifth regional title since 1985.
"When they beat us (3-0 on Sept. 24), April had quite a few kills and was a very good serve-receiver," Brainer said. "But I was very impressed with her as both a person and as a player. She's very congenial and friendly. A very down-to-earth person."
She's also an uptempo player who helped boost the confidence of a Falcons squad left badly shaken after last year. They had been 11-0 with a regular-season 87-match winning streak going before being downed in three straight games by Glen Burnie.
A subsequent victory over Old Mill was followed bya 3-2 upset loss to Chesapeake in the regular-season finale as the Falcons (12-3) failed to win their seventh county title since 1985.
"April shows leadership," junior Lori Sharpless said. "She can really get the team psyched up. She's always telling us to hang in there."