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Ph.D. quest brings 34-year-old to club volleyball

Shawn+Deurr+prepares+for+a+serve+in+a+Marquette+club+volleyball+game.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Shaun+Deurr%29
Shawn Deurr prepares for a serve in a Marquette club volleyball game. (Photo courtesy of Shaun Deurr)

Shawn Deurr prepares for a serve in a Marquette club volleyball game. (Photo courtesy of Shaun Deurr)

Shawn Deurr prepares for a serve in a Marquette club volleyball game. (Photo courtesy of Shaun Deurr)

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A group of parents point, stare and question what’s going on while they watch their sons warm up for a Marquette club volleyball game. What’s he doing here? Does he have kids? How old is he? After about five minutes, an amiable young lady turns around and tells them everything they need to know.

His name is Shaun Duerr, he’s 34 years old and no, he’s not the coach. He actually plays on the team. The lady is his wife, Beth Duerr. She comes to most of the games, even some out-of-town tournaments, and she’s gotten used to the questions. So much so, that the questions become a running joke in their household. And, while she agrees what her husband is doing is a bit out of the ordinary, he loves it, so she’s behind him.

The whole idea started when Duerr began a quest for his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Marquette.

“I knew it was available, so I set a goal,” he said. “I was older and a bit out of shape, but I wanted to see if I still had it in me.”

Originally, getting in shape and staying healthy was his focus. Since he’s building a simulator as a planning tool for micro grid development, his job is to code all day. When you sit, it’s easy to find a few extra pounds. Duerr found out the hard way when the scale, in its menacing red glow, showed 40 more than expected.

“The summer before, I lifted, biked and dieted. In the gym I did vertical training with power cleans and box jumps to put on some more muscle,” he said. “Also, I played a bit of volleyball to try to get into decent enough shape to hang with the guys.”

He dropped the 40 pounds, and even though he wasn’t in the same shape he was 11 years ago playing DIII volleyball at MSOE, he was pretty close. Regardless, he still felt nerves going into fall tryouts.

“I knew I could play, but I didn’t know if I was too old to get along with them,” Duerr said. “Some of the guys my age I used to play with thought I was getting a little old for this stuff,” he said. “But I started ripping serves and aced their star player, Dani Rivera, three times in a row. Everyone just started screaming and going nuts.”

He clicked with the laid back culture immediately, and in turn they embraced him right away. However, there was still the most menacing part of the tryout for Duerr: the interview.

“Our team isn’t just about volleyball. We’re a social club too, and we have to get along off the court,” club president Chandler North said.

Duerr aced the interview, but the main clincher was hanging out with some of the guys, playing video games until 4 a.m. and crashing overnight on their couch. It’s the first story everyone on the team tells, and one Duerr or his teammates won’t soon forget.

“We love old man Shaun,” junior Sam Ostling said, referring to him by his very appropriate, team-given moniker. “It’s not even weird, he just fits in like any of the guys.”

Suddenly, his worries about fitting in has become negligible, except for the fact he doesn’t understand the overuse of Snapchat or odd alternative punk music on road trips. Instead, his wife worries he’s getting a bit too invested, mainly because his secondary nickname is Beyonce.

“I talk about it all the time at home because it’s fun, but she thinks I’m not focusing on work,” he said. “But it keeps me young, and funny enough, some of my friends my age have more of a disconnect now than we did two years ago.”

Now the worry has shifted back to keeping up physically. While everyone else on the team arrives, takes off their sweats and is ready to play a full match, Duerr doesn’t have that luxury. Most of the time, you can find him meticulously stretching out on the sideline.

As for his wife, she’ll only have to deal with the whole adventure for another month. With Duerr graduating in the spring, he’ll say good bye to the team, but not without a proper send-off.

“I’ve heard some talk they want to do a final party for the seniors and myself.” he said. “And this time, my wife is coming with me.”

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