For two years, Matt Dwan had dreamed about today.
He had visions of avenging a one-goal loss to Hofstra in 1993 in front of hometown friends and rekindling some fond memories when No. 6 Loyola plays the No. 13 Flying Dutchmen in Hempstead, N.Y., an hour away from where he grew up in Yorktown Heights.
Hofstra Stadium is where Dwan scored his first collegiate goal, where his high school team won the state title and where he received his only Division I scholarship offer.
Now, Dwan wants to forget this homecoming.
Jason Foley, Dwan's longtime friend and teammate, committed suicide March 30, two days before his 22nd birthday. On Tuesday, Dwan was a pallbearer at Foley's funeral.
"I try not to think about it," said Dwan, a senior defensive midfielder. "But at times when you're not doing anything, that's when it's really hard."
Dwan and Foley won lacrosse titles in middle school and high school, and played three years together as Loyola defensemen. After Foley left school last May, Dwan kept in contact and spent time with Foley over winter break.
Dwan said Foley was the reason he's at Loyola.
At the New York state championship game in 1991, Dwan had decided to play for Division III Albany State, and Loyola coach Dave Cottle was at Hofstra Stadium to see Yorktown All-America Foley. After the game, Cottle also talked to Matt's father, Bill Dwan Sr., who had another son, Bill Jr., at Johns Hopkins.
"He told me that Matt was as good as Bill, but just didn't have Billy's mean streak yet," Cottle said. "We took the chance. It was the first time I had listened to a parent about a kid."
Cottle signed Dwan two months before school started in September 1991, and never has taken a better gamble. Dwan has developed into one of the top all-around players in the nation and is trying to become just the ninth Loyola player to be a three-time All-American.
An average game for Dwan includes diving headfirst for ground balls, stopping the opponent's top offensive midfielder and aiding in the Greyhounds' transition game.
"He's one of the best lacrosse players in Loyola history," Cottle said. "[Against Towson State on Saturday] he refused to let us lose. That's typical Matt Dwan."
Physically, Dwan isn't anything special.
At 6 feet 1, 172 pounds, Dwan is the smallest of Loyola's top defensemen. He is also one of the slowest on the Greyhounds' fast break.
Nonetheless, Dwan remains a leading candidate for first-team All-America because he doesn't let more talented players beat him.
He watches game tapes, reads the scouting reports, talks to the coaches.
"To get ready, I find out what my guy likes to do," said Dwan, whose brother, Bill, has returned for his second stint as a Greyhounds assistant. "I try to know what he is going to do before he does it. I'm not going to outrun anybody. I like to give good hits, but I know I'm not the strongest guy. I only try to beat people to spots."
Defending midfielders haven't discovered a strategy for Dwan, one of the best offensive defensemen in the country. Besides leading the Greyhounds in ground balls for the second straight season, he is eighth in scoring with six goals and three assists in seven games.
In Loyola's transition game, Dwan has, as Cottle said, "a longer rope than most players," because of his shooting accuracy with a long stick and his intelligence.
"I love to start or end a fast break," Dwan said. "There's nothing like a quick goal to get a team going."
For three years in high school, Dwan finished fast breaks as a reserve attackman. Only injuries to some Yorktown teammates during his senior year forced Dwan to fill a starting hole on the defensive end, from which he scored a goal in the state title game.
"Part of the reason Matthew was an attackman was because his brother Billy was a long stick," said Matt's father. "He didn't want to follow in Billy's steps. He wanted to be different."
A defenseman consistently finishing fast breaks. A Division III prospect emerging as a three-time All-America selection.
Dwan has made some success out of being different. Now, if only he can be as successful enduring this painful homecoming.
"I still can't believe it," Dwan said. "We won middle school and high school championships together. When we came here, I thought we would win a championship in college, too. But that can never happen."