Trio comes to Hopkins' defense

Seniors: Co-captains Brendan Shook, Brandon Testa and Shawn Nadelen form the backbone of a defense allowing just eight goals a game for the No. 5 Blue Jays.

College Lacrosse

March 23, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

One by one, Johns Hopkins senior co-captains Brendan Shook, Brandon Testa and Shawn Nadelen were asked what was instrumental in bringing them to Homewood Field four years ago.

The answers may have varied some, but the core to each was the chance to work with Hopkins alum Dave Pietramala, the team's defensive coordinator under Tony Seaman at the time and a three-time first-team All-America defenseman in his playing days.

When Pietramala accepted the head coaching job at Cornell in 1998, he had to leave behind the recruiting class he played a big role in assembling.

"It was a group I got very close with, and it was difficult to not be here in their freshman year," said Pietramala, who returned to Hopkins this season as head coach.

"I especially got close with the three defensemen. I got to know Brendan Shook, Brandon Testa and Shawn Nadelen as well as any other recruits I've ever known, so it was an exciting opportunity when I realized I'd have the chance to come back and actually coach them."

The coach and his three senior leaders are quickly making up for lost time. While a young attack continues to improve as it goes, Pietramala has turned to his defense and received a big return.

The No. 5 Blue Jays, limiting opponents to eight goals a game in a 2-1 start, go into tomorrow night's game against No. 8 Virginia fresh off an 11-10 upset win at No. 1 Syracuse last weekend.

"We know defense is going to be the thing that wins us games and our offense is young, but they're getting better each and every day," said Testa, a third-team All-American who has started 42 games in his four years.

"So they're going to come through and carry us through games, but right now, we have to be the ones carrying the load."

Testa, Shook and Nadelen possess unique characteristics that, combined, bring solid leadership.

"If I have questions, it's very easy to ask any one of them - I can't ask for anything more being a young goalie just coming in," said sophomore Rob Scherr, a first-year starter. "They're our emotional leaders, and if any of us gets down, any of the three will be there to pick us up."

What's with all that loud music coming from the locker room? Shook is at it again, on a table dancing in front of the team. No surprise there.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound close defender from Columbus, Ohio, is the unquestioned team character, who found his way to Hopkins after catching the eyes of Seaman and Pietramala at a lacrosse camp at Loyola University.

He provides a joke when needed and a physical presence that never leaves the field.

"I think it's important ... to keep people loose and have fun, so I'll throw a helmet on backward and just have fun with it," he said. "And then, on the flip side, when it's game time, I'll get pretty excited, get people into it and make sure no one is left out."

Said Pietramala: "Brendan's the joker of the group. He's the guy that in a very tense situation can lighten the air a little bit. But when he steps on the field, he's an extremely emotional, extremely intense young man."

Testa, the only one to play all four years on defense, provides the polish and a competitive edge.

When Pietramala came in this year, he brought a different philosophy on defense from years past, more team- and support-oriented, and Testa, from Bethpage, N.Y., has shared his understanding of the game to forge a smooth transition.

"Brandon takes things extremely personal. When we give up a goal, he's upset and he's hurt," Pietramala said.

As for Nadelen, who made the switch to defense last season, his summer job the past three years - a construction worker - is an indication of the strong work rate he provides each time out.

"My mom's a nurse and my dad works for a construction company, and I see the hours he's put in. They've really sacrificed a lot to give me the chance to come here, and I appreciate that. I'm not going to let them down," said Nadelen, from Henrietta, N.Y.

Pietramala said he knows exactly what he'll get from Nadelen.

"Shawn brings a blue-collar, no-nonsense attitude to the field," he said. "You look at him, and he's got the chiseled features, he's well-built and athletic and that's the kind of person he is - strong-willed. There's nothing he thinks he can't do with hard work, and he believes the way to accomplish things is by outworking people."

It's three individuals with common bonds - keeping the ball out of the cage and winning.

"For the three of us to have different qualities, it's great because guys can feed off everything at once. They see it all together at once on the field," Nadelen said.

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