If you’re going to practice soccer outside in Oklahoma during the month of August, you’ve got to find a way to avoid the heat. When the soccer team reported for their first day of preseason practices in early August, they accomplished just that by hitting the field at 7:30 a.m. As the sun started to peek over the horizon in Norman, the 2013 OU soccer season was beginning on John Crain Field.
“As a coach, you are always intrigued to see the players after a long break,” Oklahoma head coach Matt Potter said. “You quickly get a feel for who has done what they said they would do, as well as the energy and buzz of being reunited. This group did not disappoint. The energy and enthusiasm has been exceptional.”
Potter arrived at OU last season after successfully rebuilding the Washington State program into a perennial NCAA tournament contender. His goals are no less lofty at Oklahoma, and the athletic department has been quick to provide the resources necessary for the team to reach those aspirations. With some of the finest soccer facilities in the nation and a staff dedicated to the success of its student-athletes on and off the field, Potter’s vision for the OU soccer program is already beginning to take root.
After capturing seven wins in 2012—the most by a rookie head coach in program history—Potter and his staff will take the field this fall looking to continue implementing their vision and philosophy in the student-athletes they coach. Assisted by associate head coach Graeme Abel, assistant coach Kacey Burke, volunteer assistant Matt Armstrong and director of student-athlete performance enhancement Buddy Huttanus, Potter is on a mission to take OU to the next level as a soccer program.
There will be plenty of challenges in store this fall for the Sooners. OU fields a young roster that includes 15 newcomers, 12 of whom are true freshmen getting their first taste of college soccer. Couple that with one of the nation’s most demanding schedules—featuring contests with top teams like Tennessee, Florida, Florida State, BYU and Baylor—and it’s clear that Oklahoma’s young squad will be asked to rise to the occasion many times this season. A talented and hungry group, Potter and his staff have been impressed by the attitudes of their newcomers early in the fall.
“The freshman class has embraced all that we have thrown at them,” Potter said. “Their youth, energy and work ethic are credits to their careers prior to joining us. Their progress and the way they have embraced everything we have thrown at them is exciting.”
A key part of OU’s success this season will be the core of 11 returners, particularly five returning starters in Emily Bowman, Zoe Dickson, Abby Hodgen, Molly Richey and Kathryn Watson. Potter has high expectations for the group on the field, in the locker room and in the classroom.
“To see the progress our returners have made and to see them reaping the reward of their hard work is what this is all about,” Potter said.” “We have a group who is showing they can be true role models, and with such a large incoming class, it was important for them to meet that expectation. I’m pleased for them and the direction our program is heading.”
Potter and his staff worked to put the team in multiple game situations throughout the preseason, testing their communication and composure early. A pair of intrasquad scrimmages accompanied exhibition matches on the road at Idaho and Gonzaga, providing his young team with invaluable game-time experience.
“We have shown so much growth throughout the preseason, culminating in our trip to the northwest,” Potter said. “While the results didn’t go our way, the positives far outweigh the challenges. We have been able to compete every day and continue to see the new learning we’ll gain from additional competition, including invaluable soccer and life experiences.”The OU soccer team opens the 2013 campaign this weekend on the road in Tennessee. The Sooners will face the Tennessee Lady Vols on Aug. 23 at 6 p.m. CT before closing the weekend at Kennesaw State on Aug. 25 at 11 a.m. CT.