The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association is re-evaluating its use of a blind draw in assigning seedings for high school playoffs, but for some area programs, a change didn't come soon enough.

The MPSSAA held its draw for regional boys and girls soccer, field hockey and volleyball tournaments tonight, and as usual, some of the area's best teams will face each other earlier than they would like.

In the volleyball draw, for instance, three of the state's top teams--No. 1 Northern (12-0), No. 2 Calvert (9-1) and No. 7 Patuxent (7-2)--are clustered together in one half of the 10-team 3A South region draw, meaning only one of the three will advance to the regional final. Calvert faces the winner of the first-round Westlake-Chopticon game, while Northern and Patuxent face each other in the regional quarterfinals.

"Would I rather play Calvert or Patuxent in the later rounds? Sure. But if you're going to make it out of our region, a very tough region, you've got to play the best," said Beth Incrocci, Northern's head volleyball coach. "And there's some satisfaction in knowing that if you do get to the state playoffs, you've beaten the best to get there."

The MPSSAA currently uses a random draw to assign teams to regional playoff brackets in all sports except for football and--starting in the 1999-2000 season--basketball. In boys and girls basketball this winter, all teams will continue to qualify for the playoffs, but the top four teams in each region will be seeded according to regular season records.

The MPSSAA will re-evaluate that system in the spring of 2000, and if it works, the plan will be adopted in other sports.

There were other intriguing, if not controversial, early-round pairings:

* In the volleyball 4A South Region, Bowie, the top team in Prince George's County, must face High Point in a first-round game, for the right to play Eleanor Roosevelt, also considered to be among Prince George's top teams, in the quarterfinals.

* In girls soccer, No. 5 Wootton plays Montgomery County rival Watkins Mill in a first-round 4A West Region game.

* In the boys soccer 3A East Region, No. 4 River Hill faces a tough first-round test in Howard County rival Wilde Lake. The Hawks, the two-time defending 2A champions who have moved up a classification, will face DuVal if they win.

* At least two top teams received better news. The No. 10 Quince Orchard field hockey team has a first-round bye and automatically advances to the 4A West Region semifinals.

The Chesapeake boys soccer team, the defending 4A state champion, travels to Old Mill in the first round of 4A East Region.

"It's not the worst-case scenario," said Chesapeake Coach Earl Eckhardt, whose team is 12-1. "It could've been a lot worse."

Staff writer Angie Watts contributed to this report. Complete playoff pairings will run in Saturday's editions.