By MICHAEL KINNEY
NORMAN — Matt Potter has an old school mentality when it comes to filling out his schedule. The Oklahoma soccer coach could easily have filled it with cupcake squads just to pad his team’s record.
But Potter doesn’t believe that’s how champions are made. So when he added the likes of No. 10 Florida and No. 2 Florida State to the Sooners’ schedule this season, it was with the express intent of getting closer to being a championship team.
“To be the best, you have to play against the best,” Potter said. “You find something out about yourself when you put yourself in that type of situation and that’s what we want to do.”
The Sooners (2-2) will face the Gators (3-1) at 6 p.m. Friday in Gainesville. They will then travel to Tallahassee for a noon match against the Seminoles (4-0).
In all, Oklahoma will take on five teams this season that are currently ranked in the NCAA Division I top 25. That’s just fine with Potter.
“We want to be on the biggest of stages and that’s what the tradition of Oklahoma sports is,” said Potter, who is in his second year at OU. “So, we are no different in our sport. To get there, I believe if you play against the best, you find out something that gets you closer to being the best.”
However, Oklahoma has not played at that level so far this season. It’s coming off a weekend in which it lost 3-1 to rival Oklahoma State after allowing all three goals in six minutes.
OU came back two days later to defeat Texas State and push its record to .500 on the season.
“I think we learned some things when we lost to Oklahoma State,” freshman Caren Nelson said. “We applied them in our second game. We came out the aggressor and did positive things. That’s what we have to do after a loss.”
Despite the early losses, Potter is happy with the resolve his team has played with. He is even more impressed with the Sooners’ workman like attitude they have displayed at practice.
“What I think I would applaud this group for is bringing that work ethic every day and that competitiveness everyday,” Potter said. “They go to work and they work hard. That’s one thing that’s going to carry them forward for this year and multiple years to come.”
Before they can worry about the future, Oklahoma has to first deal with its trip to Florida where they will get the chance to test the team’s hard work and mettle against a pair of talented programs who have been where the Sooners want to be one day.
“They bring class, they bring ability in terms of they have been on the biggest of stages, Florida State, obviously, losing in the Final Four last year,” Potter said. “Florida is a perennial SEC powerhouse team. The reality is, it’s going to be a challenge, but one we look forward to.”