As the Maryland regional playoffs approach in high school field hockey, volleyball and boys and girls soccer, this much is certain for Southern Maryland Athletic Conference teams: One of them will make the state's final four in each sport.

That's because 10 of the SMAC's 12 teams make up Maryland's 3A South Region, and the winner of the regional tournament makes the state semifinals in each classification. The exceptions are Lackey, which competes in Class 2A, and St. Mary's Ryken, a private school not eligible for the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association postseason.

Last year, with the Calvert County schools in the East Region and Charles and St. Mary's County schools in the South, the possibility existed for two area teams--or none--to advance the state semifinals. The new alignment will remain in effect through the 2000-01 school year.

All MPSSAA schools are eligible for the regional tournaments in field hockey, volleyball and soccer, and they were seeded by a blind draw Thursday in Baltimore. This may be the last season the MPSSAA uses a blind draw to seed its playoffs; the organization will seed the top four basketball teams in each region by regular-season records this winter, and if that works well, the seeding system will be used in other sports.

Note: There is no regional playoff held for football. Instead, all four classes have eight-team state tournaments, and teams qualify based on their points average as determined by the MPSSAA's rating system. At least one SMAC team is guaranteed a spot, representing the 3A South.

CAPTION: Northern volleyball players, shown celebrating after beating Calvert, are strong contenders to reach state semifinals.