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Straight Shooters: Matt Zash on breaking in hard mesh

"Straight Shooters" answers your youth lacrosse questions with the help of US Lacrosse experts. This week's "Straight Shooter" is Matt Zash. Zash was a two-time All-American midfielder at Duke. He plays professionally for Major Lacrosse League and the National Lacrosse League. Currently, Zash owns and operates the Lax Hut, a chain of lacrosse retail stores. Zash was also a member of the 2003 U.S. U-19 Men's World Championship team.

Q: I play defense for my middle school lacrosse team. I currently am using hard mesh, but was wondering if I should switch to soft because of the easier ability to catch. - Sean Bloos, Waxhaw, N.C.

A: Sean, Hard mesh usually breaks in and gets much softer within a few practice sessions, so don't be so quick to switch. You might want to explore some "break in" options before undergoing plastic surgery. Here are a few tips that could save you some extra cash:

1. Before using a new strung head, I work the pocket over with the barrel end of a Louisville Slugger. This softens and stretches the mesh. If the mesh is still too tough, I'll add a little water to the pocket to stretch it out. Beware: if you soak the pocket, you will experience the same effect as if you played in a downpour. The next morning you will have zero pocket.

2. Some of my old teammates at Duke rubbed shaving cream into their mesh and let it sit overnight. This achieved drastic results, and should be used as a second-to-last resort.

3. Experiment a little. If your last option is to gut your head and put in soft mesh, you might as well try a few things. Who knows, you might find a far better method than anything I've come up with. I've heard of someone using paint thinner to break down the fibers. I don't know how that worked out. Just please keep it safe.
"Straight Shooters" runs on baltimoresun.com and laxmagazine.com. E-mail your lacrosse questions to sports@baltsun.com and include a phone number for e-mail verification. US Lacrosse, headquartered in Baltimore, is the national governing body of men's and women's lacrosse. Learn more about playing, coaching and officiating lacrosse at www.uslacrosse.org.

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