Whether or not Valley Stream Central can turn the tide on a few of its AA-2 Nassau Conference rivals in the second half of the women’s soccer season will determine whether the Eagles put a banner on the wall this fall and qualify. for the Class AA playoffs.

Central improved to a solid 5-2-1 with a win over Hempstead last Friday, but are still eyeing top spot Baldwin in the standings, with East Meadow also in the mix.

“Baldwin and East Meadow both beat us the first time around and we’ll see what happens in the rematches,” center coach Mike Caputo said. “I think we can be the best team in the conference. We are definitely the fastest and developing better chemistry every day.

“We need to have better starts to games,” he added. “We sometimes get caught trying to own the ball instead of not moving it to open space and using our speed.”

Baldwin, who opened 5-0-2, beat the Eagles 3-1 in the second game of the season. “We hit two posts and two crossbars in the second half,” Caputo said. “We have to go to them next [Sept. 29] and they have a grass pitch, so it’s going to be tough, but the girls are looking forward to the challenge.

The Eagles fired five starters, including All-County selections Lluvy Lewis and Alyssa Santiago. Lewis, a senior, has 3 goals and 7 assists, and Santiago, a junior, has 6 goals and 4 assists. Both are mainly central midfielders but also play elsewhere. Junior Madison Kaminsky and senior Annalisa Bizzaro are the starting outside midfielders.

“Wherever Lluvy and Alyssa play, they improve that whole part of the pitch,” Caputo said. “Lluvy moves so well laterally with full control of the ball. She is a skilled athletic playmaker. Alyssa is just a workhorse. She has been a captain for two years and no one surpasses her.

Up front, junior Madison Galette returned and was joined by rookie Kelsey Pierre. The duo are still gelling, Caputo said, but filling in the stat sheet. Galette, an All-Conference selection last fall, brings blazing speed and an improved skill set, the coach noted. She has 7 goals and 4 assists. Pierre (5 goals, 3 assists) possesses a combination of speed, courage and skill.

In the defensive zone, junior Emily Martinez and senior Sienna Dessources control the center and rely on good communication and being in the right place at the right time. Senior Madison Ford, a key contributor last season, and senior newcomer Katiana Valentin do the work on the outside.

In goal, juniors Toni Clarke (25 saves) and Blair Graham (12) continue to battle for game time and push each other. They offer Caputo two quality options.

Since dropping to East Meadow 2-1 in the match after Baldwin’s loss to slip below .500 early, Central has gone unbeaten in five straight with four wins and a 4-4 draw with Hicksville.

“We trailed Hicksville by two goals twice,” Caputo said. “I think apart from the first 20 minutes it was the best streak we’ve done so far.”