A star college athlete and native of San Jose who was found dead in Whittier, Calif. on Thursday planned to become a professional volleyball player in Europe and train for the Olympics, her former coach said Monday.
Alyssa Sialaris, 21, a graduate of Leigh High School in San Jose, played well enough for volleyball teams during a European tour last year to turn pro after graduating this year, said Ali Oliver, former volleyball coach at Whittier College.
"She was 100 percent planning to go to Europe to play professionally," said Oliver, who coached Sialaris on the Whittier volleyball squad from 2011 to 2012. "She loved it."
"She was an incredible person," said Oliver, who recruited Sialaris to play at Whittier in 2011. "She was passionate for everything she did and lived life to the fullest more than anyone I ever met in my life."
Sialaris, a record setting outside hitter for the Whittier team who received national recognition in the sport last year, died in her Whittier apartment apparently of natural causes, Oliver said.
The college community, which held an evening vigil for Sialaris on Sunday, is finding it hard to accept the passing of a young woman with a vibrant personality who excelled in volleyball and track and field, Oliver said.
"We've been trying to cope," Oliver said. "She was the epitome of good health, and incredibly healthy eater, exercised like a champ. "It's mind-blowing."
"When you'd watch Alyssa on campus, it was like what they said about (NBA player) LeBron James, 'A man among boys,'" Oliver said. "She was a beast among all these kids."
Sialaris, who also attended De Anza College in Cupertino, transferred to Whittier in 2011 and last year was selected as Honorable Mention All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association and named to the All-West Regional Team.
An expert at the spiking the ball, known as kills, Sialaris was first in the nation in kills for a few weeks last fall and broke a 20-year-old record at Whittier with 444 kills in 2012 "a kill record that I'm sure will stand for another 20 years," Oliver said.
Aside from turning pro in Europe, Sialaris had been training with Oliver in beach volleyball lately and wanted to join the Unites States' Olympics team in the sport someday, she said.
"She was nowhere near her peak of being a volleyball player," Oliver said.
Sialaris also excelled on Whittier's track and field team, in the hammer throw, discus, javelin and shot put, Oliver said.
Funeral plans are still pending, Oliver said.