Identical twins Nick Palano and Sam Palano will be fourth-year seniors in the University of California San Diego men's soccer program during the fast-approaching 2016 season. Both Northern California products out of Lafayette are currently in San Diego, and checked in with us for a rare multi-guest Triton Q&A about their summer and future plans, among other topics.
Q: We know you to golf a little bit. Handicap your games for us. Who typically wins a Palano family round?
NICK: Golfing has turned into a fun hobby of mine over these past few years. I'm a very mediocre golfer, but always looking to improve. My dad always wins the Palano family rounds, but Sam and I are catching up.
SAM: I would say my handicap is 25 on a good day. My dad is probably the most consistent golfer and usually wins. However, I always beat Nick and that's what really matters.
Q:What do you have planned for the summer?
NICK: I traveled to Nicaragua for 11 days with UCSD's own Global (Medical) Brigades. We set up a three-day medical clinic in a small community an hour's drive from Esteli. On top of three days of community service, we were able to explore the surrounding cities. I loved the experience and everything I learned during it. In addition, I have been practicing with Albion Pros and taking a summer class. When class finishes, I will be going to Hawaii for about two weeks, and hopefully squeezing in an annual Palano family backpacking trip before returning to San Diego for preseason on Aug. 15.
SAM: I plan on continuing training with the Albion SC Pros NPSL team and taking a summer school class. I am also going to Hawaii with my family.
Q: It's been another great, packed summer of soccer. What has been a highlight for you?
NICK: The highlight for me so far has been my trip to Nicaragua. Soccer-wise, I have enjoyed practicing with the Albion Pros and getting a different view of soccer from the different coaching staff.
SAM: Watching all the Copa (America Centenario) and Euro games. My boy (Chris) Wondolowski had a great showing, and (Cristiano) Ronaldo is still overrated.
Q: The new Alex G. Spanos Athletic Performance Center opened toward the end of your 2015 season. What are your impressions of it thus far, and what kind of an effect do you feel it can have as you make use of it during your final year?
NICK: Spanos is amazing. I have already made use of it multiple times this summer and like the atmosphere and professionalism of the place. It really helps having your own space to work out, surrounded by people who share similar ideals as you.
SAM: It's unbelievable that we get to train in such a professional facility. Not only that, but also having a professional strength and conditioning staff that gears our workouts specifically toward the movements we use in our sport is something incredibly useful to the entire team.
Q: What's it like to play for Jon Pascale?
NICK: Jon is a great coach who knows how to win. Over the past four years, I have learned a lot from him and the other coaches.
SAM: Coming in as a freshman, I heard quite a lot of stories of Jon, most of them the classic horror running stories. But after our team went multiple rounds into the NCAA tournament (in 2013), further than they have ever gone before, all those same guys told us to buy into what he says. We have been to the postseason every year I've been here, and I am excited and looking forward to giving my final season and postseason a solid and long run. Also, he went surfing with us one time and killed it.
Q: What ultimately brought you guys all the way down here from the East Bay? Were you set from the beginning on attending a university and playing college soccer together?
NICK: Sam and I get asked this question all the time. However, we never planned on it. It just happened. We were in contact with Jon (Pascale) and other college coaches the last two years of high school, and the location and academics of the school were my deciding factors.
SAM: My two main stipulations for college were that I wanted to stay in California, and I also wanted to keep playing soccer. I had other options to play in California in other areas, but no place came close to this school academically and location-wise. I had to go to community college for a year and transfer in, but I wouldn't change it. Coming here was worth the wait. Nick and I never planned on going to the same college and playing together. However, this school was the best opportunity for the both of us, so it kind of worked out that way.
Q: Without implicating yourselves in any major misdeeds, do you have a twins story you can share with us?
NICK: I can't think of any good twin stories at the moment. When we were younger, we switched classes and the teachers did not know.
SAM: One day during elementary school, Nick and I switched classes to see what would happen, and our teachers had no idea. At some point, I had to spell Nick's name in cursive, and I freaked out while all my friends in Nick's class laughed at me.
Q: You both excel in demanding, scientific majors, with Sam in microbiology and Nick in biochemistry and cell biology. Has there been a particular class you've enjoyed the most, and/or felt most challenged by?
NICK: One of my favorite classes was Introduction to Biofuels, with Dr. (Stephen) Mayfield. I think biofuels are the future of energy, and Dr. Mayfield's expertise in his field of science is extremely interesting to me. I thought a challenging course was the lower-division Chemistry 6B class.
SAM: One of my favorites classes that I have taken so far is Immunology. It was also one of my most challenging as well.
Q: When do you intend to complete your degrees, and what do you have planned for after you graduate from UC San Diego?
NICK: I plan on finishing my courses by the end of this winter quarter, and am thinking about going to dental school.
SAM: I will be finished with all my classes by winter quarter of next year. I plan on going to dental school hopefully the following year in California somewhere. (Editor's Note: Nick and Sam's father, Charlie, is a dentist.)
Q: The Tritons have qualified for the postseason in all three of your years on campus, and you had no seniors on the 2015 roster. What are your expectations for your final go-around in a UCSD kit?
NICK: Expectations are extremely high. We have no excuses this year. We have a talented squad and a core group of seniors who have what it takes to create an excellent culture for our team. We have big goals this year.
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