Mykhylyk sparks Council Rock North district playoff win over Radnor

NEWTOWN – Looking for its first win on its first trip to the postseason since 2011, Council Rock North needed a spark in the second half of its district playoff battle with No. 18 seed Radnor.

Moments after holding their collective breath as the Red Raiders launched several crossing passes that hovered perilously near the goalmouth, the Indians got the inspiration they were looking for from senior Max Mykhylyk.

Twenty minutes into the second half, the senior midfielder got a head on a Brett Miller throw-in, giving Rock a boost in the form of a much-needed insurance goal.

“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” stated CR North head coach Joe Stackhouse. “It opened the game up for us and it gave us a second wind, too.”

The timing of the strike by Mykhylyk could not have been more critical.

“They definitely came out strong in the second half so the timing of the goal was important,” admitted Mykhylyk. “It really switched the tables in the game.

“Once you get that two-goal lead, the other team starts to break down.

“That’s how we got the third goal – because they got sloppy in the end.”

Careless as in taking down a player in the box, rewarding Rock’s sure-footed Nick Guarna with a penalty kick less than five minutes after North’s second strike by Mykhylyk.

Guarna made no mistake, blasting it into the left side of the net for an insurmountable 3-0 edge.

While Guarna’s PK assured the 15th-seeded Indians another date in districts with No. 2 seed Conestoga on Thursday, Oct. 29, the header by Mykhylyk was crucial to the team’s first playoff win in four years. Out with some nagging injuries earlier in the season, the 12th-grader has been coming on strong of late.

In the battle for the Unity Cup, with North holding a 1-0 halftime lead over sister school South, Mykhylyk notched a pair of goals in the second half to ice the game and the Indians’ third straight cup win in the annual rivalry. More recently in a Senior Night battle with Bensalem, he tallied the game’s only goal in a 1-0 shutout win over the Owls, who were district qualifiers this season.

“I’ve been injured a little bit with an ankle injury so I’ve been out for part of the season – about three or four weeks,” said Mykhylyk. “After I got my rest in, I came back and I’m coming back strong.”

Junior Nikita Ihlin got the scoring started in districts, intercepting a clearing pass and heading the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 Indians lead just 16 minutes into the playoff battle.

Helping senior goalkeeper Billy Storm to his ninth shutout of the season in this one were sophomore left-side backfielder Justin Scharf and senior backfielder Arthur Vasyluk.

“Arthur – we can’t do it without him in the back, winning the head-balls and clearing the ball out,” said Mykhylyk. “He such a big helps to us.”

Scharf plays a big part of the defense too, the coach says.

“He has all the skills needed to play at the next level,” said Stackhouse.

“He’s cool under pressure, too, for a young kid. He pulls the ball down out of the air and distributes, doesn’t just haplessly play it back upfield. He plays it with a purpose.

Also stepping up on defense after an injury to junior backfielder Noah Ehlin were senior Jared Scharf and sophomore Akash Shah.

“Our defense, after suffering a couple of injuries, they really did step up big,” said Mykhylyk. “We really needed them so it was important that they came up and they played strong.”

Stepping up for Ehlin on throw-in duties was Miller and, according to Stackhouse, his efforts were also just in time.

“Today was probably his best game of the year; he was very dangerous,” the coach said. “We need him to play like that throughout the rest of the tournament for us to be successful.

“I think we go as he goes.”

For Stackhouse, the trip to the postseason and the accompanying win provides a measure of satisfaction. Taking over a program that went to the district title game and the state semifinals the year before under current girls varsity coach Wendell Beres, Stackhouse has installed several measures including the addition of a freshman soccer program that have contributed to the team’s current success.

Hard work registered by the 27 men that make up the Rock roster has also helped.

“Since June, we’ve been out a couple nights a week and they did a two-week fitness camp prior to the season so they’ve been going at it for quite some time now.”

And for that?

“They want to go to states,” the coach said.

In order to advance to the PIAA tournament, the Indians must defeat the Pioneers, who captured a Central Athletic League title after going unbeaten (11-0). Ironically, North lost to Conestoga in both the 2011 district championship game and in the state semifinals that year.

If the Indians can get past Conestoga, they’d like another shot at Abington, says Stackhouse.

“We beat them the first time 1-0 here and they beat us 2-1 so the two teams are pretty close.”

First, North has to unseat the Pioneers and the Ghosts have to get past No. 10 seed Upper Dublin, which pelted Bensalem 8-0 in a district playoff opener.

The Indians, after hovering near first place all season long in the Suburban One League (SOL), finished behind Pennsbury (9-3-2) after suffering late season losses to Neshaminy and Abington, which captured the National Conference crown at 10-4-0.

At 8-4-2, North finished in third place in the SOL National and the D-1 playoff win pushes Rock to 12-5-2 overall.

A fourth-place finisher in the Central League at 7-3-1, Radnor’s 2015 campaign ends at 10-7-2.

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Council Rock North 3, Radnor 0

(Oct. 27 at CR North)

CR NORTH 1 2 – 3

RADNOR 0 0 – 0

FIRST-HALF GOALS — Nikita Ihlin (CRN) unassisted, 16th minute

SECOND-HALF GOALS — Max Mykhylyk (CRN), from Brett Miller, 60th minute; Nick Guarna (CRN) unassisted, 65th minute.

SHOTS — CR North 17, Radnor 10.

SAVES — Billy Storm (CRN) 6; Ben Toomey (R) 7.

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