It's a good thing Alex Posta likes challenges because he got one this summer.
For the first time, Posta, a standout for three seasons at Citrus, played club soccer and tested his skills against the best of the best in Central Florida. He fared well, scoring two goals for Lakeland Soccer Club in eight games, but nonetheless called the experience eye-opening.
"It makes you realize what you have to be to play at another level," Posta said, "and how maybe I'm a big fish in a small pond."
Around here, Posta isn't a big fish, he's a whale.
The forward enters his senior season having earned Times All-Citrus/Hernando honors three times. Posta scored 27 goals as a freshman, 26 as a sophomore and 36 last season. Following his sophomore season, he was named area player of the year.
But in club ball, Posta was just another player. So he says anyway.
"I would go out and play against a bunch of kids in my same boat," Posta said. "The level of play is phenomenal. It forced me to step up, to play harder. One of my goals this year is to play hard."
That could be bad news for opponents, who have yet to figure out how to slow the 5-foot-5, 134-pound Posta. Even last season, when Citrus replaced most of its offensive starters from the previous season and had limited scoring options, Posta found the net. He ranked second in the county to Crystal River's Donny Caldwell in goals.
"He's very quick and very skilled," Lecanto coach Bruce Sheffield said. "He's very competitive, very intense. You can't give him any kind of opening. He'll turn around and shoot on you in a moment."
Exhibit A: In a Class 2A, District 7 semifinal game against Lecanto last season, Citrus had three shots on goal, two came from Posta. Both of his shots went in and Citrus won 2-1. The victory advanced Citrus into the playoffs and kept Lecanto, which was 1-0-1 against the Hurricanes during the regular season, at home.
Posta's first goal was from 35 yards out, a shot that rocketed past keeper Nick Rowthorn and caromed off the crossbar into the goal. The second saw Posta take a long pass, beat two defenders and plant the ball low and to the left.
"In our other two games (against Citrus), we pretty much shut him down," Sheffield said. "We tried to smother him. Unfortunately, in the district game he got away twice."
Posta also had nine assists last season.
"He's just as happy to give the ball up," first-year Citrus coach Ian Feldt said. "That makes him twice as deadly. He's double trouble. I can't say enough good things about him. And, he works harder than anybody on the team."
Already considered the county's most talented player, Posta now has this going for him: maturity. He played club soccer not only to enhance his physical tools, but sharpen his mental skills.
"I really don't feel like I'm that much better (physically) than I was (three years ago)," Posta said. "I have the same talent, but I'm a little smarter. I think my smarts have improved. I'm more confident."