Sep 14, 2023

Wernicke's late goal sends Coyote Men's Soccer past York in KCAC Opener

Posted Sep 14, 2023 2:50 PM

The shots were almost as rapid as machine gun fire but the Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes could not score a goal, missing from near, far and in between for nearly 80 minutes.

With time becoming a limited commodity a freshman from Potsdam, Germany - Mika Wernicke - rose above the fray and headed a shot that finally whisked past York goalkeeper Breno Prado in the 79th minute.

It was enough to propel the Coyotes to a hard-fought 1-0 victory in their Kansas Conference opener Wednesday night at JRI Stadium and the Graves Family Sports Complex.

Wernicke, who has an inherent advantage with 6-foot-2 frame, scored on the set piece with the assist to Jesus Moreno.

"They're learning," first-year KWU coach Bruce Palmbaum said of his team. "We spent a lot of time this week talking about just hanging in there. Everybody recognizes that we just have to keep getting better week to week. They stuck with it and stuck to a lot of things we worked on this week."

KWU's roster is virtually brand new with a slew of freshmen and transfers who were not around last season.

"It's not so much that they're young, it's that they're new," Palmbaum said. "They don't know each other and it's going to take a while for it to happen. It's a project as I've said from the beginning, a three-year project. At one point today we had eight freshmen on the field all at the same time - what's that going to be like in two years?"

Palmbaum was pleased to see a set piece succeed.

"We were struggling with our service on our corner kicks," he said, "so we weren't getting them where they needed to go."

The Coyotes (4-2) had several good scoring opportunities but didn't convert.

"We had two or three whistle by the post that probably should have gone in but sometimes that happens,"Palmbaum said. "That's why soccer is such an odd game. It's hard to get a goal."

The assist was a deserved bright spot for Moreno, a transfer from Long Beach City College (Calif.) who misfired on a couple of makeable shot attempts.

"He had two or three really good chances and he usually makes those," Palmbaum said. "I have full confidence in him. I think he established himself today as our center forward."

KWU outshot the Panthers (0-5-1) 19-5. Moreno had five shots followed by Noel Zimbeva and Abaenya Nundu with three each.

The defense was superb from start to finish. Goalkeeper Santiago Pagnutti, a transfer from East Los Angeles College, had three saves.

"Our defense is getting tighter and tighter and our goalkeeper came up big," Palmbaum said. "Eddie Flores (transfer from Long Beach City College) was a substitute in the second half on defense and played a really stellar game at left back."

The Coyotes play conference newcomer Evangel at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Springfield, Mo. in their next outing.

Palmbaum said the proceedings made Wednesday "a really significant day."

"It was a collective effort," he said. "The guys on the bench were really excited and were active. It's a family. It's not a team yet but it's definitely a family."