Kerra Tirado (22) and three-time Maryland 4A state champion Sherwood are aiming to defend their title while Annike Scwartz (middle) and Suzanne Brady (right) hope to lead Damascus to the 3A title. (Preston Keres/For The Washington Post)

The Maryland volleyball playoffs begin Thursday with 185 teams competing across four classifications for a state championship. Sherwood will face one of the toughest regions in the state as it tries to win a fourth consecutive 4A title. Arundel (4A), Centennial (3A) and Calvert (2A) will each look to return to the final match and break through this time around.

Each classification is divided into four regions, and each region has two sections. Play begins Thursday and heats up Monday, when the top two seeds in each section will enter the mix after first-round byes. The section finals will be held on Wednesday and the region finals will be played on Nov. 8 or Nov. 9, each at the site of the top seed. The surviving teams will meet at the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum for the state semifinals the following week, ending with the state championship matches on Nov. 16.

Here’s a look at what Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s County and SMAC teams will face as they make their push for a state title.

Maryland 4A

(2012 final: Sherwood def. Arundel, 27-25, 25-14, 25-13 )

4A North region:

#1 Seeds: Dulaney, Howard (13-1)

Potential matchups to watch:

Sherwood vs. Howard, region semifinal

● Dulaney vs. Howard or Sherwood, region final

Breakdown: Baltimore-area teams populate one half of this bracket, and the other section only has five teams. Despite its small size, this section could feature one of the most intriguing matches of the playoffs between Howard and Sherwood (18-2). Both teams have been stalwarts in the Post’s Top 10 rankings this season and are more suited to meet at Ritchie Coliseum for the state semifinals or finals than in the regional round. The Howard County champion Lions have won 11 in a row and boast one of the state’s most powerful hitters in senior Sydney Biniak, but the Warriors have won three consecutive state titles. Howard also will have home-court advantage.

4A South region:

#1 Seeds: Eleanor Roosevelt (11-1), High Point (11-2)

Potential matchups to watch:

● Bowie vs. Eleanor Roosevelt, region semifinal

● Bowie vs. High Point, region final

Breakdown: Eleanor Roosevelt and High Point are the top dogs in this region, and deservedly so, but second-seeded Bowie might be the most dangerous team. Don’t let the Bulldogs’ record fool you. They finished 9-4 but dealt the Raiders their only loss of the regular season on Sept. 19 and swept High Point on Oct. 24. A region quarterfinal match against C.H. Flowers (10-3) could also cause problems for Eleanor Roosevelt.

4A East region:

#1 Seeds: Arundel (14-2), South River (13-2)

Potential matchups to watch:

Broadneck vs. South River, region semifinal

● Broadneck vs. Arundel, region final

Breakdown: Though the Anne Arundel County championship was decided Tuesday night at Broadneck, this region will also serve as a postseason tournament for county teams. Top seeds Arundel and South River still have the edge, but Broadneck (13-3) and Severna Park (12-2) will each make for exciting semifinal matches if they advance. Three of the Bruins’ last four matches have ended in five sets (once against Arundel, twice against South River), including the county title match against the Seahawks on Tuesday night. Don’t be surprised if the winner of this region also goes on to the state final.

4A West region:

#1 Seeds: Churchill (16-2), Wootton (15-3)

Potential matchups to watch:

Walter Johnson vs. Churchill, region semifinal

● Churchill vs. Wootton, region final

Breakdown: Walter Johnson (6-12) might be the scariest No. 6 seed in the state. With senior outside hitter Brigid Morris on the bench because of a concussion, the 2012 state semifinalists started the season 0-11. Since her return, however, they have won five of their past six matches, including four in straight sets. If Churchill avoids or defeats Walter Johnson, it will face the winner of the second section, which is completely up for grabs. Gaithersburg (10-4), Magruder (14-5) and Northwest (11-7) all notched double-digit wins and are fully capable of knocking off Wootton, which lost to Churchill, 2-1, in the Walter Johnson Invitational but got revenge with a 3-1 win in their final match of the regular season.

Maryland 3A

(2012 final: North Hagerstown def. Centennial, 25-20, 25-23, 25-12 )

3A South region:

#1 Seeds: J.M. Bennett, La Plata (13-0)

Potential matchups to watch:

Crossland vs. La Plata, region semifinal

Breakdown: La Plata dominated the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, posting an unbeaten record and only dropping two sets all season. Crossland, meanwhile, was one of the better surprises in Prince George’s County with a 12-1 record. Because both teams have mostly stuck to conference play, neither one has been tested much. It will be interesting to see which team responds to the challenge.

3A East region:

#1 Seeds: Poly, River Hill (12-2)

Potential matchups to watch:

Glenelg vs. River Hill, region semifinal

● Glenelg or River Hill vs. Poly, region final

Breakdown: Howard, River Hill and Glenelg (11-2) were the cream of the crop in Howard County this season, and all three spent time in the Post’s Top 10. While the Lions ultimately captured the county crown, the Gladiators pushed them to the brink in the final match of the regular season and are primed for a deep playoff run. To make the region final, however, they will have to figure out River Hill, which beat them 3-1 on Sept. 24.

3A West region:

#1 Seeds: Damascus (12-2), North Hagerstown

Potential matchups to watch:

● Tuscarora (Md.) vs. North Hagerstown, region semifinal

● Damascus vs. North Hagerstown or Tuscarora (Md.), region final

Breakdown: Reigning state champion North Hagerstown is one of the 3A favorites, but Damascus has experience on its side. The Swarmin’ Hornets have seven seniors, including setter Carly Marella and outside hitter Annika Schwartz, and knocked off three-time 4A state champion Sherwood on the road on Oct. 16. Look for a tight match against either North Hagerstown or Tuscarora (Md.), which also defeated Sherwood this season, but expect Damascus to emerge from this region.

3A North region:

#1 Seeds: Bel Air, Towson

Maryland 2A

(2012 final: Williamsport def. Calvert, 25-22, 25-23, 25-22 )

2A South region:

#1 Seeds: Calvert (10-3), Friendly (10-3)

Potential matchups to watch:

Patuxent vs. Calvert, region semifinals

● Friendly vs. Patuxent or Calvert, region finals

Breakdown: Calvert and Patuxent (10-3) are evenly matched and familiar with one another after trading wins in SMAC play last month. Their potential meeting in the region semifinals will be the highlight of this group. It will also be interesting to see whether Friendly can rebound after losing its last two regular-season matches to Parkdale and C.H. Flowers.

2A West region:

#1 Seeds: Mountain Ridge, Poolesville (14-0)

Potential matchups to watch:

● Liberty vs. Poolesville, region semifinal

● Poolesville vs. Williamsport, region final

Breakdown: Poolesville should enter the playoffs with plenty of momentum after finishing the regular season as the only unbeaten team in Montgomery County. Led by Seton Hall-bound libero Sarah Kenneweg and junior setter Allyson Convers, the Falcons had impressive wins over Gaithersburg and Wootton and only dropped two sets all year, both in a 3-2 win over Damascus on Sept. 25. The rest of the region is brutal, however, with both Liberty and reigning state champion Williamsport potentially standing between the Falcons and a trip to Ritchie Coliseum.

2A North region

#1 Seeds: Dunbar, Hereford

2A East Region:

#1 Seeds: Parkside, Rising Sun

Maryland 1A

(2012 final: Smithsburg def. Perryville, 25-10, 25-5, 25-4)

1A North region:

#1 Seeds: Carver A&T, FAST

Potential matchups to watch:

● Surrattsville or Fairmont Heights vs. Central, region quarterfinals

Breakdown: Only four area teams populate the Maryland 1A bracket, and none of them finished the regular season with more than four wins. Among the four — Central, Fairmont Heights, Forestville and Surrattsville — Surrattsville (2-9) has the best chance to make the region semifinals, but don’t expect any of them to advance past that point.

1A South Region:

#1 Seeds: Benjamin Franklin, Forest Park

1A East Region:

#1 Seeds: Colonel Richardson, Perryville

1A West Region:

#1 Seeds: Fort Hill, Smithsburg